Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Some Things which Young People Should Avoid and Consider Carefully

In September, I enjoyed a discussion with a group of six young people from Chisala area in Nkhata Bay district. Our main focus of discussion was on HIV/AIDS, Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and young people.
 There are so many things which young people should not dare do in their lives. However, in this entry, I have carefully selected only a few.

It is an undeniable fact that HIV and AIDS is one of the most perplexing enigmas of our time. Every day, the lethal virus is menacing one precious life after another. It still has no cure but relief lies in the fact that we know how it is spread.  There is no need to underscore the fact that up to now, the disease has no cure and the quest for an antidote is still on.  In this light, the window of hope lies in the youth of today. The world expects them to remodel their lives styles so as to have an HIV/AIDS free generation in the years to come. 

In the aforementioned round table I had with my young friends on HIV/AIDS and the youth, the following transpired;

Firstly, my young friends from Chisala stated that young people should avoid having sex as one way of preventing themselves from contracting the virus (HIV). 15 year old Ted was deadly serious and added that most young people of Malawi take sex as just a form of entertainment. His other buddies were in total agreement and almost each one of them was telling me how he thinks young people perceive sex and the most notable ones being ‘a game’, an experimental procedure’ and ‘a hobby’

I was not really sure and I now wish I had asked whether abstinence came first as an unwritten agreement between them. One thing that kept me amazed is the fact that these youngsters, whom I am glorifying in this entry, gave me an impression that they find time to discuss and seek expert opinions on matters concerning their Sexual and Reproductive Health. This trait is very rare among young people of today who are more interested in what they call Swagger and all that but not their Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Secondly, the young friends of mine, whom chance only allowed them to bask in the reverence of me for only four days, mentioned that the youth should avoid the tendency of shunning HTC Services that are provided free of charge in most public health facilities.

 My four-day young and bright friends told me that most of their peers believe that HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC) is not for young people. I was told that most adolescents, sadly, believe with firm conviction that young people, even those above the age of 13, are not allowed to go for HTC in hospitals. They also think that going for HIV Counselling is only for married couples. 

I was very much awed by this kind of perception and I reserved my comment. It was time for my friends to tell me how the situation is like in their area. Furthermore, I really wanted to get as many responses as possible from this group more especially on things which young people should not do in their lives.
On a third note, it was time for Raphael who seemed a bit reticent during the roundtable discussion until at this particular point. I immediately noticed that a cap that was on his head, covering his eyes had some scribbles worth a read. The writing on his hat read ‘H.A.T’ and below was a full meaning of the acronym – Hungry Angry Tiger! Without asking, he told me that what is written on his hat also happens to be his alias. 

The boy codenamed H.A.T stated that young people should stay away from ‘Nanzi’ (Indian hemp). He further explained that Nanzi and alcohol abuse are two vices that compel young people to think in a roundabout manner. He said once young people are under the influence of one or both, they indulge in casual sex, vandalism and other bad  things. 

His esteemed friends chipped in and they said in a chorus that  alcohol is not really bad but when an underage gulps the stuff down his or her throat it disturbs the mind like cocaine. They said the consequences are always disastrous and they strongly advocated against the use of Indian hemp and underage drinking. 

After our first fruitful discussion that afternoon, I was scheduled to meet them again after sunset. I was supposed to do a screening of several films and among them was a YONECO, PFP and Temwa film called Mawa Langa (My Tomorrow). Luckily, the film had very important HIV and AIDS messages to young people- young people like H.A.T, Ted and the others!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Are You in a Prison without your Knowledge?

Setting up limits and boundaries (dos and don'ts) sounds like a self-defeating concept.  Most young people feel that it is like employing yourself as a prison warden to limit your own freedoms. However, living a life of recklessness with no principles or what so ever, is a prison where they lock themselves into. 

This abruptly happens without realizing that the other option was where interminable freedoms were.  Why would a young person just do anything that comes to his/her mind and just put into action what ever the peers are saying?

Bluntly, an irresponsible life is like being brought, while blindfolded, to a very big prison with a very big yard where you cannot see the barbed-wire fences. It is a kind of prison where you brave the hardships just because you are ignorant of where you are. Day in day out, you feel as if you are happy and force yourself to be in a jovial mood. One thing that is for sure is that you cannot go anywhere unless you know that you are in a prison and you are innocent – You will be allowed out.

One sad thing is that most young people who imprisoned themselves in this gigantic prison are on death row even though they are innocent.  Once they realize that they are in a prison, they can simply say I want to get out and they will be unconfined right on the spot. One sad thing is that most young people realize this and try to say I want to get out on their last day, during their last second. On this last day, it is difficult to reverse things and nobody goes out of this prison on his or her last day… No, matter how hard you shout, you still face the electric chair! 

The above account of an analogy between a reckless life and life in a prison without your knowledge is really applicable to the way some young people live and ruin their precious young lives.  They feel that abstinence from sex is impossible even though it is very possible. They reach an extent of engaging themselves in unprotected sex.  They have a choice to have sex if their efforts to abstain have been futile so long as they protect themselves from STIs as well as HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies etc.  

However, due to the fact that they are in a prison, they feel constrained and fail to explore better options. They subconsciously feel very limited and they do not even expect that there are choices they make. Prisoners are not choosers; they simply get what is available in their vicinity! The consequences of unsafe sex cannot be overemphasized; it is a long list that includes unwanted early pregnancies as well as contraction of HIV and STIs. 

If you are young person and you are in this kind of a prison, just shout; I want to get out! and you shall be let free to enjoy your young life and to plan for your future! 

Now! There are several ways that can help young people to avoid finding themselves in such a mess. Among the ways is to seek advice from people who are well versed in matters that concern sexual and reproductive health like Youth Friendly Health Service (YFHS) Providers, youth development oriented organisations and institutions like YONECO. 
Does a person who is on death row plan for his or her future outside the prison walls? If you are in, now is the time for you to get out of this prison and focus on who you want to be in the future!