Saturday, 22 November 2014

A Sad Tale of Young People's SRHR Trials and Tribulations in Malawi

Will the ordeals which young people go through just to access Sexual and Reproductive Health Services ever end in Malawi? Every day, sexual reproductive health issues are menacing the lives of young Malawians right in front of the Youth Policy and Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) Standards. 

The Youth Policy of Malawi recognizes Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) as one of the key issues that needs to be dealt with in order to serve and save the leaders of tomorrow. 

It is very distressing to realize that magnitudes of young girls are still dropping out of school because of early and unplanned pregnancies. It is tear-jerking to hear that a total number of eight primary school girls somewhere in Mangochi  district have failed to write their Primary School Leaving Certificate because of pregnancies. 

The fact that SRHR Service providers disclosed that STI cases among young people are occurring at an average of 7 to 8 cases per month in a certain area within Chiradzulu district signals us that something is not right. It is like we have turned our priorities upside down. The whole country, mainly those at the helm are talking about sustaining our resources for the youth. On the other hand, the youth are losing their lives and failing to continue their studies due to a beast that hides in young people’s sex and sexuality.

Initiatives to banish early pregnancies, child marriages, high HIV and STI prevalence among the youth are in place but there are a few spanners in the wheels of effective implementation of such initiatives. For example, why are the youth failing to access YFHS simply because they do not know that the Health Centre that is in their community is a Service Delivery Point? Is it not just an issue of raising awareness, electing a simple signpost?  

Something has to be done; otherwise our ears will continue to hear sad stories like the Chiradzulu case whereby pregnancies among young people have been placed at 60%.  For emphasis’ sake, at Namitambo health Centre in Chiradzulu district, out of 120 mothers who deliver babies per month, about 113 are youths below 24 years old of which about 43 are below 19 years old.

The need to look at the bottlenecks that are blocking the progress of YFHS provision is inevitable and the call for comprehensive sexuality education for the youth in school should be given the much needed push. 

How can a girl go to school and pay for her examination fees only to defer the exam because of pregnancy? This to a certain extent proves that young people out there know nothing about their sexuality and reproductive health hence they stumble in their trails due to lack of knowledge. 

For so many years, young people in Malawi have been trying to access SRH services and they go through a lot whenever they want to get reliable information concerning their sexual and reproductive make up. 

The country expects the youth to excel in their studies, be active citizens in supporting  a number of community development initiatives. However, such a situation is not possible unless the SRH trials and tribulations which these young people go through are addressed amicably.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Porn and the Threat it Poses on Young Lives

About five days ago, I was extremely engaged in facilitating some discussions on young people’s WhatsApp Forum called The Youth Breeze. On this forum, young people freely discuss, learn and share important information on issues to do with Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) as well as other things that may hinder them from realizing their dreams. In addition, young people also benefit from the creation of this innovative approach as they use it as a resource centre where they get correct and reliable SRHR information from the Administrator and Moderators of the forum. 

On this particular day, the topic of discussion was on whether the members of the group think or believe that pornography has the potential to fuel HIV/AIDS among young people.
There was a cooked up debate and I really enjoyed how the members were throwing in their views and back up points. By the end of the day, what came out clearly was that pornography lures young people into sexual promiscuity. 

One well-regarded member of the group said bluntly that what comes next after watching pornographic films is to do what one saw. The fellow said, the issue of abstinence becomes distant and, ‘if you can’t abstain use a condom’, messages get completely quashed   by a certain demonic possession that pushes one towards the imminent danger.  

Here, I think I should add that the consequences are just too much and you cannot fathom that it all started with what one thought was just innocent moving pictures. 

I tried to find out the reasons why young people who are fully aware of pornography and its attendant perils still glue their eyes on TV screens to watch it. 

Thus, peer pressure seems to be a vice that has led a lot of young people in labyrinth zones. Peer pressure has not spared the youth from the tendency of watching and sharing pornographic materials either. Most young people who watch these addictive and vulgar videos were introduced to them by what they loosely call ‘friends’. What does the future of the world hold when young school-going children, instead of studying, are spending their precious time watching something that will trigger them to sleep around? 

In essence, during our Youth Breeze Forum, pornography was found guilty of indoctrinating innocent young minds who end up in getting early pregnancies and its attendant challenges, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV infection. All these are bad enough not only to an individual young person, but to the society as a whole.

I view of this; I firmly believe that young people have no option but to stay away from pornographic materials. Issues of morality aside, we only live once and it does not make any sense at all to watch something you fully know will bring disastrous consequences to your future.

As manifested by what happens next, pornography is the enemy of the well-being of young people in this world and it is a vice which is putting spanners in the wheels of an HIV-Free Generation agenda.