Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Let’s Stop Stigma and Discrimination against PLWHA

It is widely believed that discrimination against People with HIV/ AIDS (PLWHA) is a thing of the past.  Sadly, discrimination and stigma still exist in this world and the two continue to menace People who are HIV positive.  This explains the reason why the majority of people who are HIV positive do not disclose their status.

 People should know that discrimination against people who are HIV positive is entirely wrong and not acceptable. Discrimination and stigma of any kind hurts so bad and the two only bring disastrous results.

If all HIV positive individuals are to hide their status, the pandemic will definitely be spreading undercover. Not everyone can stand up against discrimination and stigma.

What people who are HIV positive need are good medical and health care systems, emotional support and many other needs but discrimination and stigma are not on the list. Those that are stigmatized become silent and once they are silent there is no way they can get their needs like good medical and health care. In such a scenario, a person cannot live longer with the virus.

I strongly believe that sometimes a society that perpetuates stigma and discriminatory tendencies against HIV positive people cannot in any way develop. Discrimination negatively affects each and every sector in a society.

By virtue of being a Human Immune Virus it means it is found only in human beings and any human being can be infected. Thus, teachers, doctors, civil rights activist, business persons and any other human being can contract the virus if the person is exposed to the virus. There are several ways in which the virus is transmitted. This again is one important point that many people in the society tend to forget.

In addition, discrimination and stigma prevents people from getting tested. The two aforementioned vices bring about a certain kind of fear so much that people do not even wish to know their HIV status.  This is why a lot people are losing their lives despite the fact that there are antiretroviral drugs available in hospitals and pharmacies.

It is very sad to note that a lot of people who are living with HIV around the world are stigmatized and discriminated against. Many have lost their relationships, families, jobs and employment opportunities as a result of discrimination.    Some feel their reputation has been damaged and many others continuously feel insecure or unsafe as a result of stigma and discrimination.

 Stigma does not only make it more difficult for people to come to terms with their HIV status, it also interferes with the attempts to fight the pandemic as well.

Ending HIV stigma and discrimination is of paramount importance and it is good to highlight the negative effects that come along with stigma and discrimination.

HIV positive people are just like everyone else they need love, care and support. So let us please provide them with the necessities they may need in whatever way we can!

While spreading true facts about HIV is the easiest way to make a big impact against HIV stigma, another way to fight this condition is for HIV-positive people to come out to the open and show that people with HIV today live with the virus, and that there is so much more in their life that can help to development their designated communities.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

A Time to Go Behind the Lies

Firstly, I would like to wish all aspirants who have submitted their nomination forms to the electoral governing body in Malawi, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC). On a special note, I would really like to hail all aspirants who have the best interests of the youth, women and children.  To them, I will say is ‘bravo! You are in the right direction!’

The youth, women and children are among the most neglected in our society. Their issues are either wittingly or unwittingly forgotten in the manifestos of our esteemed politicians.

It is not proper for me to say our political leaders consciously forget to devise mechanisms for addressing the challenges which the youth, women and children face. I will avoid taking that path because saying so will put me in a position to speculate the reasons why our well-regarded governance gurus tolerate the vulnerability of the youth, women and children.

However, it is an open secret that the youth and women are the most marginalised groups in our society. Women are denied access to loans and other economic opportunities without any justification what so ever.  This happens while we fully acknowledge the fact that the number of widows in this country reached an unacceptable level a long time ago. We all know and acknowledge that most subsistence farmers in this country are women and yet they cannot be entrusted with soft loans to purchase farm in-puts.

A closer inspection also reveals that women fail to access family planning methods because clinics/health centres are not anywhere near their vicinity. The situation is that the nearest clinics they may get are privately owned and the prices for family planning methods are exorbitant like aeroplane spare parts. They simply cannot afford and the end result is that their fertility rate is just too high. With our ‘seemingly’ patriarchal society, they are divorced at will and without any prospect of getting child maintenance from their ex-hubbies.

Now, how can the youth acquire good quality education when they cannot afford school fees? After some struggles, some complete their higher education studies only to be told by the government itself and three quarters of prospective employers that the minimum qualification for a particular job is an experience of not less than three years on top of an academic certificate. Now, where do they expect someone fresh from college to obtain such a work experience from? Thus, the unemployment rate among the youth is just too high and they are not even given other economic opportunities to enable them to venture into businesses. A lot of young people out there are lacking vocational skills and nothing is being done about that.

I would also like to briefly look at Malawian children who really need good health care services and early childhood development centres among other needs.

Let us all reach our destination- this is where I was driving at: the campaign for this year’s tripartite elections should not be riddled with mere rhetoric and hate speeches. We have gone through such politicking and it does not contribute anything to the welfare of those who are at the bottom of the pyramid. The communities need to make sure that the campaign is based on nothing else but issues.

Thanks to National Democratic Institute (NDI) for supporting good governance processes in Malawi. NDI has also supported YONECO in all of its efforts of ensuring that Malawians should really benefit from their right to vote. YONECO has so far made remarkable strides with the support that NDI has rendered to the Issue Based Campaign Initiative.   In this regard, YONECO has trained communities on how they can identify communal problems as well as issues and how they can engage the aspirants to explain and promise how they will address the problems. The aspirants need to sign social contracts and be held accountable when they are not fulfilling their obligations.

As we are remaining with only 93 days before we go to the first ever tripartite elections on 20th May,2014, I urge all people, men, women and the youth to focus on how our aspirants will address the perennial problems that affect the youth, women and children. It is time to go behind the lies by ensuring that the promises our aspirants make regarding the welfare of youth, women and children and the communities at large are supported by their signature on a social contract form.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Reflections on Valentine’s Day & SRH

Today is a beautiful day more, especially to the youthful lovebirds who have not been in the game for so long.  Most young lovers are in high spirits and all their talk is about today, the 14th February which happens to be Valentine’s Day.
 It is a time whereby people show that they really care about their lovers whether a Fiancé or fiancée, paramour, husband or wife. However, most young lover’s over excitement sometimes leads to undesirable consequencies.
Young people should not perceive this day as different from other days- they should still remember that they can either contract or transmit STIs to their so called lover. As such, they should abstain from sex and if they fail to do so, they should practice safe sex by using a condom.
Valentines is all about spreading and showing some love, care and affection not sexually transmitted infections.
My fellow Young people should remember to abstain from sex, if not then they should condomize on this beautiful day.  They should remember to access Sexual Reproductive Health Services at Youth Health Service Providers and Youth Centers.
Have A good Weekend &Happy Valentines Day!!!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Girls Education- An Instrument for Poverty Alleviation in the World

It has been noted that support for girl’s education has helped alot to alleviate poverty in Malawi. After Malawi adopted the celebrated Millenium Development Goals Strategies, the Malawi government and different stakeholders have implemented projects that have empowered girls and women economically and socially as well. For instance, Teen Mothers are encouraged to go back to school.
 Among the stakeholders is Youth Net & Counselling (YONECO), a local NGO that has and is still implementing projects that are aimed at empowering girls and women in all spheres of life. Among such initiatives include the provision of adult literacy education to domestic workers, school drop outs and teen mothers.Because of this initiative, a number of women and girls are now able to read and write and some have managed to venture into small and media scale businesses. As we are coming closer to the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 many goals are far from being achieved but we must remember that education transforms lives. We, therefore, need to advocate for girls education for the development of our countries.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Getting Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge

Last Sunday, I went to a barbershop for what I can call a routine hair trimming activity. Being a Sunday, it was an easy day as most business persons prefer a day off from normal duties due to a number of reasons. Thus, in the barbershop, there was only one attendant in his late forties or so and the only available barber chair was occupied by an apparently young man of less than 22 years of age.

Apart from the aforementioned two people there were also other four young boys who simply accompanied their fellow to the barbershop. All of them were in a seemingly jovial mood. However, what forced my hair into a standing position was the fact that I detected a sudden change in their topic of conversation once I stepped into the room.

What struck and prompted me to punch some buttons in order to present to you this write up were the things they talked about and more strikingly something they did not talk about. If I was not under a certain constant fear and avoidance of being labeled a pesky intruder, I could have asked them why they did not care to talk about something that is of utmost importance in their lives as young adults.

Among the issues, they talked about football, how Arsenal FC suffered a terrible defeat in the hands of Liverpool FC and other related topics. Further to this, they talked about music and I should acknowledge that from their chitchat I knew some real names of the most famous American rappers and pop stars. After a while, they got accustomed to my presence and they returned to what I believed was the initial topic of discussion that was stopped midstream because of my arrival.

The seemingly jovial young men started talking about their love relationships vigorously- every one of them was a Romeo in his own light. I soon realised that each young man has a lover and they all enjoyed recounting and listening to their escapades. They talked and talked and talked about how nice it is to be in love. At times, I was a bit saddened at how vulgar the boys could become when they were talking about issues concerning sex.

However, even though the lover boys   seemed to be very fascinated by their love lives and sex, they were somehow naïve. This was evidenced by the frequent questions they were asking each other and failing to help out one another with even just a faint idea. Frankly speaking, this was due to the fact that they were all ‘green’ or perhaps I should say… immature. Thus, the entire questions ended to the most patient barber I have ever seen. Then, the  barber started doing three things; shaving his customer, giving monosyllabic responses and articulating myths as empirical facts.

Meanwhile, I was asking myself several questions. ‘Of course this dude is an excellent barber, but does that virtue certify him to be an expert in sexual reproductive health?  ‘Why are these seemingly clever chaps getting themselves into something they haven’t understood in the first place?’ Have they tried to seek advice from an expert in this field and if yes, why do they give an impression that they are still living in the dark?’

Later in those few minutes, I heard that one lad amongst the kids has a one year old kid and that he broke up with the unfortunate little mother of his child. It also became general knowledge within the vicinity of the barber shop that one of the boys had about two of what he called ‘legitimate girl lovers’ (whatever that means) and three other sex partners. The ugliest part of it was that, all his associates were rather envying him for that instead of telling him a civilized way of approaching his love life.

It is heartrending that the young boys, none of them was above 21 years of age, talked about sleeping with girls and love affairs. In fact, they talked about almost everything  except their own sexual reproductive health.
Young people are ignorant of the most important insights surrounding the issues pertaining to their sexual reproductive health. Due to a certain unyielding nature that usually comes together with youthhood, they do not seek information as they rely on certain courageous as well as fatal experiments. Consequentially, they get destroyed from lack of knowledge.

All young people should know that getting reliable information and advice first before risking some stakes is an ideal way to go. Concerned organisations like YONECO have counselors who offer free counseling services. In addition, most hospitals and clinics have youth friendly health corners where they also offer free counseling services.

It is sad to note that these young humans are getting destroyed from the lack of knowledge. They know nothing about condomizing, they do not know the dangers of having multiple sex partners and abstinence is not in their vocabulary either.

As I was waiting for my turn in the barbershop, I picked up a Holy Bible that was on an empty synthetic leather bench. This was done in a vain attempt to at least get the boys to understand something and realize the folly of what they do. I quickly flipped over the pages and opened Ecclesiastics 11 verse 9 and left it somewhere where they can easily read.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Some Reasons for the Youth to Vote

The countdown is on, come 20 May 2014 young people will have a chance to have a say through the secret ballot. When I say ‘Young people’, I mean young adults who are at least 18 years of age and above. It is a matter of national importance and their future also depends on their exercising the right to vote. Since their future is automatically at stake, they need to step in and make the decision that will shape it.

As young people, your vote will secure your safety and it is true that different leaders have different ideas in terms of how they look at us. It is time to vote for leaders who you feel will protect your life and civil rights.

Voting gives you the power to contribute and to have a say on who will be the next most powerful leaders in this country. It is one of the most effective ways where by your choice is respected.

 In some cases, the youth shun away from voting as they erroneously believe that their vote won’t count. The end result is that over half of the youth who are of the voting age do not vote. Thus, hundreds of thousands of voters whose individual secret ballots could have made a difference are simply nowhere to make an impact.

Young people really need to reconsider their participation in electoral processes. What will happen to our hard earned democracy if we all shy away from voting?

Let us hope that the youth will know that a lot is at stake in their and the next generations’ future. 

YONECO encourages you- the youth- to have your say through the ballot on 20 May, 2014.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Why the Youth Fail to Access SRH Services

Adolescents face a lot of hurdles whenever they want to access Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services that are said-to-be youth friendly in Malawi .More and more, young people face an increasing pressure on issues concerning their sex and sexuality. This includes, getting conflicting information and ideas due to the fact that they are unable to get hold of correct and reliable information from experts. As such, they rely heavily on myths and unfounded opinions.  

There are definitely some barriers that prevent them from seeking professional help from the available Youth Friendly Health Services. I would like to explore and explain some of the hurdles that put off the youth from accessing SRH Services.

 Firstly, traditional beliefs are very strong so much that they exert a lot of influence as well as pressure on people in the society and the youth are not immune to this.  A lot of myths and misconceptions on the issues pertaining to SRH are embroidered within the customs of our diverse societies. The youth are left with no option except to believe and follow what their customs want them to believe. As such, they follow baseless procedures as   stipulated by the society.

In this light, the best way is to bring to the open what is wrong and what is right. There is need to advocate for good and acceptable practices in as far as SRH is concerned. Young people are supposed to be aware because ignorance has so far proved to be a very expensive commodity in our various societies.
Secondly, the attitude of some health workers is also a prohibiting factor in its own light. The approach that our health workers use leaves a lot to be desired. In order to ensure that the youth are getting the necessary sexual and reproductive health services, there is need to adopt an approach that considers all dilemmas that young people are always in. The youth are always confused and shy when it comes to issues concerning sex and sexuality.  As such, they are permanently put off when they detect any annoying or unwelcome gesture that the medical personnel may show- the youth are always sensitive.

In light of this, our medical personnel need to adopt a positive and friendly attitude towards the youth who go for SRH services. Without an adjustment in terms of the conduct of our medical experts, it is an uphill battle as the youth will be expected to get the necessary SRH services from places where they do not feel free to go.  Furthermore, teen pregnancies and marriages will remain common and unpleasant features of our society.

Thirdly, the youth are limited and they are denied a number of opportunities that are of paramount importance to their welfare as well as development. The youth are left out in the formulation and implementation processes of initiatives that are aimed at improving their sexual reproductive health. As such, their views are not incorporated and the end result of such initiatives is that the youth do not feel any sense of ownership. In addition to this, some elements that would make the youth feel open and content are not incorporated simply because the beneficiaries themselves were not consulted.  

Young people’s limited access to education, employment, money and information (about sex, gender roles and relationships, for example) combined with the lack of opportunities have proved to be very disastrous. The lack of opportunities to acquire knowledge about SRH issues and their limited capacities to get information entails that they make or rely on baseless accounts. This makes them prone to sexual and reproductive health problems.

Some health centres that provide SRH services are not close to the areas where the youth live and the nearest they can get them from are privately owned clinics. With the economic hardships that the youth face, they cannot manage to afford the services. 

The above mentioned factors are among the factors that hinder the youth from accessing SRH services and information. Adolescent boys and girls have the right to access SRH services for the betterment of themselves and the society as a whole. Its time the challenges were addressed so as to guard the future of our society.