Commitments made by African governments to address issues facing young people, and the changing technology landscape in Africa, means that there has never been a better time to expand opportunities for young people.
They are increasingly able to meaningfully contribute to and engage in influencing decisions that affect their lives; and with access to modern communication spreading young people are speaking up as never before.
For youth in Madagascar, these changes are a valuable opportunity. Of the country's 19 million people, there are 9.5 million people under 18 years. Most adolescents have poor access to life and vocational skills, limited economic prospects and little exposure to media and other sources of information. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation as they are often unaware of their rights, and have limited means through which they can speak out about abuse and injustice.
Among females, 28 percent of 15 to 19 year olds have already given birth, forcing them to become adults before they may be ready to take on the responsibilities that motherhood entails Although most of Madagascar’s labour laws conform to international standards, they are frequently poorly enforced, and harmful labour practices are endemic among Malagasy youth.
In rural areas many young people share the same concerns about their situation: they lack roads and access to water and electricity; school structures and educational instruction are poor; health facilities are insufficient, and rural communities lack sports and recreation facilities that would provide young people with opportunities to socialise and develop life skills among their peers.
Young people, sexual health and HIV/AIDS
The national HIV prevalence rate in Madagascar is among the lowest rates in sub-Saharan Africa with less than 1 percent of the population affected.
Yet the low prevalence of HIV is in sharp contrast to high prevalence rates of other sexually transmitted infection (STIs), especially among 15 to 24 year olds. Early sexual activity and low use of condoms are major factors contributing to the spread of STIs.
Recent studies show that only five percent of girls and 12 percent of boys aged 15 to 24 years used a condom during their last high-risk sexual encounter; and many are unable to correctly identify the two major ways of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV (using condoms and limiting sex to one faithful, uninfected partner).
With this combination of lack of awareness and high risk behaviour, adolescents and the Malagasy population in general, are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, and other STIs.