YOUNG people who do not use protection once they become sexually active open a floodgate of risks that if not addressed effectively, will eventually affect the standing of a country; this is why our actions as individuals is critical to national agendas.
A nonchalant attitude to sex starts a ripple that does not usually reach a good place.
Not using a condom for example already places a risk on both partners of contracting sexually-transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
The ripples threaten the health of young women who may not be physically ready to have a child and it halts the young womens progress as individuals in life.
Often, the young people are also now faced with a situation of bringing a child into this world unplanned and unprepared.
When speaking about a couple, planning how many children they have and the spaces between them allows them to be healthy parents and give them time to be financially prepared for a growing family.
There is also enough time to go around between their professional lives, household management, time with children and time for each other.
In the hypothetical situations above, one can see how we can progressively leave the cycle of poverty and poor health.
When this happens on a large scale, we are then talking about a more balanced life, a much happier workforce thus an increased productivity whether one farms or is a chief executive officer, and by extension, a much improved lifestyle, economy and nation.
As you read this, a group of Pacific young people and parliamentarians would be into their second day of discussions at an open hearing on adolescence sexual and reproductive health and rights before the New Zealand Parliamentarians Group on Population and Development (NZPPD).
Among other activities, the first day (yesterday) included a panel discussion by young people representing Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights (ASRHR).
The NZPPD is a cross-party group with 47 members or 40 per cent of the Beehive; implicit is the importance they place on this issue.
The annual open hearings provide the New Zealand parliamentarians a forum to engage and act on international population and development issues.
Why should leaders care, you may ask? ASRHR issues have implications on population dynamics which is of fundamental importance to how we plan our lives, from the family unit to the country as a whole. In this context, the issue of ASRHR is key.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights is a phrase that encapsulates fundamental human rights relating to peoples sexual and reproductive health, including services and a conducive environment that will support people realising these rights.
The involvement of legislators and young people is indicative of how SRHR is an inter-generational and cross-sectoral issue.
When we do not plan well for things like quality health services that our people can access, or introduce legislation that will protect them in their plight to acquire good health services, we entrench a status quo that can only be destructive.
Studies in this area have shown that 65 per cent of girls and 72 per cent of adolescents in the Pacific are sexually active.
This is compounded by the fact that of the Pacifics rapidly growing adolescent population, 56 per cent are under the age of 25, and 36 per cent under the age of 15.
In population terms, we are looking at a relatively young future, the more reason why their sexual reproductive health and rights need to be on the table at every significant regional and national planning meeting. We need to prepare now for a well-balanced, healthy and productive Pacific.
While we may be in Wellington with selected young people representatives and legislators, this issue is everyones responsibility.
There is much to do in terms of boosting knowledge and access to comprehensive SRHR services and information or adolescents will continue to suffer a disproportionate burden of poor sexual and reproductive health, including teenage pregnancies and sexual and reproductive illnesses.
As much as 26 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 in the Pacific have begun child-bearing and as much as 62 per cent of recent births were unplanned.
The situations of when women between the ages of 15 and 49 years who may want to stop having children but are not using contraceptive is referred to as unmet needs in family planning as much as 52 per cent of Pacific women between 15-19 years, married or in civil unions, fit into this category at present.
Gatherings like this open hearing are important because it maintains the topic in the realm of leadership; roping in young people to present their own country analysis ensures they are involved in a process that will only benefit their generation.
But just as important is our individual responsibility of spreading the gospel so to speak, and the importance of changing the psyche of our young people into responsible behaviour.
Individual convictions of our responsibility to planning our lives better has to become an ingrained cultural element if we are to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, etc.
All this very much justifies that our youth is given the prime time at the open hearing in the New Zealand Parliament to speak up for their rights to a safe and sound sexual and reproductive future, building on the strong and conducive traditions from the past.
Dear young person, its great to see you planning for sitting at the top.
* Dirk Jena is the director and representative of the United Nations Population Fund Pacific sub-regional office. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Fiji Times.