As one way of improving access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRH&R) services among the youth in Malawi, YONECO recently conducted some activities in Mzimba and Kasungu Districts. The organization seeks to improve quality delivery and access of SRH&R information and education services by enhancing the capacities of the youth to make wise and informed decisions.
Young people, as they grow, face a lot of challenges both at school and in their designated communities. Lack of proper information on issues that affect their lives is one of the major challenges and this endangers their lives. In Malawi, most young people start having sex before the age of 14 and this indicates that most young people are at the risk of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.
Due to lack of access to appropriate information within the communities and schools, cultural beliefs and customs, among other factors, promote child marriages, early pregnancies that ultimately lead to an increase in the perennial school dropout rates especially among adolescent girls. In addition, lack of platforms for sharing life experiences and lessons among young people coupled with a lack of friendly environments for the same are also among the triggers of the frequent SRH and R challenges that the youth are facing in Malawi.
On the issue of lack of information, a number of studies have shown that in most African cultures, parents are traditionally restricted to talk to their children about issues regarding Sexual Reproductive Health. This also prevents young people from getting SRH information at the right time.
However, peer education sessions greatly assist in reversing the current adolescent SRH problems and challenges. Peer education sessions provide an opportunity for young people to build various skills in decision making, problem solving, goal setting and other relevant life skills.
Peer education sessions further provide awareness and information among peers who are both in school and out of school. The awareness is highly-prolific mainly because of the context and its perspective as the youth understands each other and their SRH issues better.
YONECO, in March this year (2014), has trained both in school and out of school life skills facilitators and SRHR advocates who are also peer educators in Kasungu and Mzimba districts. Thus, the youth will be sharing SRH information, skills development and behavior change strategies among themselves within their designated groups in the aforementioned two districts.
To this effect, YONECO will be organising information sharing sessions for peer educators. The peer education sessions will be facilitated by the trained in and out of school facilitators and they will be supported by YONECO staff.
NB: All young people in Malawi should also know that this is possible in your respective areas, think about it and let someone know in case you may need some assistance.