Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A Bright Future For Young People Lies in giving them the Right Options

On 26th September, the world commemorated the World Contraceptive Day under a very enlightening theme; “it’s your life, your future and know your option’’.
The theme is talking directly to everyone who wishes the best for him or herself and young people out there should take heed of what the theme is implying.

The Malawi government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are supporting communities in an effort to ease access of Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) Services in health centres. Of particular interest is the fact that the youth are not excluded in the list of the recipients of the SRH Services.

However, it is very saddening to note that young people, more especially those who live in the remotest parts of the country, do not have easy access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services like contraceptives. 

Consequently, such areas register shocking statistics on early pregnancies, maternal mortality rates, obstetric fistula and unsafe abortions. 

Thus, it is an undeniable fact that the provision of Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) is an aspect that has to be considered carefully if the country is to deal with sexual and reproductive health problems that are affecting young people.

As a deliberate effort to make sure that the youth have access to SRH services, the government, NGOs and other development partners have supported the intensification of YFHS. Despite such efforts, there are other factors that are shocking progress in the implementation of YFHS. 

There are some factors that have led to problems in the provision youth health friendly services in the health centres where YFHS Corners have been established. The factors include the attitude of service providers towards the youth. This is a scenario whereby health workers are judgemental and treat young people who go for SRH services as sinners or ill-bred kids.  

Adolescents easily perceive such attitudes and it always makes them feel unwelcome. As a result, they shun away from accessing what they rightfully deserve due to fear and shyness and eventually end up in deep water. 

In addition, another factor is that communities, more especially the youth themselves, are not aware of Youth Health Friendly Service Corners that have been established in health centres across the country. 

On this factor, there is a need to make young people aware of YFHS and what they offer.Young people really need to know about contraceptives and how they work. In this way, it will help them establish the truth other than believing in misconceptions and myths about family planning methods and procedures.

In light of all this, it is necessary to intensify and implement more activities on youth sexual reproductive health and rights and encourage the youth to abstain and if not, they need to use contraceptives.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Whether to sanction the youth to access Family Planning Methods and CSE or let them get Early Pregnancies and STIs?

Whether the title of this blog post sounds hypothetical or not, the right answer lies in the question itself; should we allow young people to access family planning methods and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) or the other option of denying them access and let them get Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and fall pregnant?

In the name of what is loosely called ‘protecting the moral fabric’; children out there are having their own children, young people are dropping out of school and dying due to early pregnancies, AIDS and some more are becoming sterile due to STIs and unsafe abortions.

 By extension, unsafe abortions are also claiming many lives of young girls every year. Furthermore, it is an irrefutable fact that obstetric fistula is a nightmare that await young pregnant girls in the maternity wings of our clinics. 

The unemployment rate of young people in Malawi is astonishingly high. However, does anyone know that some of these unemployed youths are supposed to be in school? What drives them into the labour market is the fact that they impregnated or got pregnant then dropped out of school and found themselves in streets. From sun rise till sun set, they are moving up and down looking for ways of earning an income to support their babies who were born by chance and not by choice. 

A careful analysis of the aforementioned problematic issues pertaining to sexual reproductive health of young people will inform you that each individual consequence also has its accompanying pitiful aftermaths. There has to be an answer to such challenges.

The advantages of abstinence from sex have, for so long, been preached but nothing has really changed. Sexually active young people are still facing the consequences of unsafe sex. Of course, there are some young people who are practicing abstinence but at the same time, a good number of them are indulging in unprotected sex and they are constantly challenged by the hectic outcomes. 

The world in general  and Malawi in particular, should not be in such a fix where by it is losing the potential that is in otherwise bright young people due to lack of comprehensive sexuality education and lack of access to family planning methods that can protect them from all this. Something has to be done because it shows that we need to do our mathematics and get our calculations right. 

Before I stop punching the buttons, I would like to state the factor that prompted me to write this blog. A Primary School Education Advisor somewhere in Chiradzulu district told me and my colleagues during an interface meeting that a total number of six girls did not sit for their Primary School leaving certificate because they were pregnant. He added that such cases are a usual feature in many primary schools and his facial expression said, ‘enough is enough, something has to be done to avoid such cumbersome scenarios’.

Sadly still, he further stated that such children do not go back to school after delivery as they are burdened with the task of raising their children, a thing which is not easy more especially to a girl who is below the age of 15.

I regret the fact that they had had an unprotected sex. Who knows where their academic journey could have taken them to? Nonetheless, all is not lost, such young girls and I understand there are a lot more others out there, need support and encouragement for them to go back to school and revive their dreams. 

All this is happening in a society where the elders and the society at large are saying comprehensive sexuality education is a taboo subject that should not be offered to the youths.  The same elders wear brave faces and say family planning methods are not for the youth. They say this amidst cases of early pregnancies and they fully know that young people of today will grow and have families of their own in the near future. So! Why not allow them to plan for that now?