Saturday, 23 May 2015

A Message to Adolescent Girls: Obstetric Fistula is Real and Preventable!

As Malawi joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Fistula Day on 23 May, 2015; young girls should do their best to avoid this condition which is preventable and treatable but nevertheless dangerous.

Studies have shown that 1.6 out of every 1, 000 Malawian women develop fistula and a lot more others are living with the condition. This is how serious the problem of fistula is at the moment in Malawi.

My emphasis in this entry is on obstetric fistula which is said to be the most devastating and serious of all childbirth injuries. According to the Fistula Foundation, “obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labor, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or feces or both”. 

There are many related heartrending consequences to adolescent girls and these include; preventing young girls from going to school and limiting their opportunity to actively participate in economic activities and other personal development initiatives.   

As already stated in this entry, obstetric fistula is preventable. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), can largely be avoided by:
  • delaying the age of first pregnancy;
  • the cessation of harmful traditional practices; and
  • timely access to obstetric care.
However, the best option for young girls who are also very prone to obstetric fistula due to immaturity of their reproductive organs is to simply avoid pregnancy. This is why delaying the age of first pregnancy is very important to avoid this condition.

This is also one of the reasons why child marriages are not popular in our society as married adolescents want to bear children in their marriages while their bodies are not ready.

To some young people out there, obstetric fistula sounds like a fabricated condition meant to prevent them from having sex. There is no need to know it when you have it hence it is advisable that if you fail to abstain, you better seek SRH services like condoms to avoid conception at a tender age. There are so many Youth Friendly Health Service centres in public health centres where you can get SRH services for free! Patronise such establishments and avoid pregnancies and contraction of STIs including HIV.

A number of testimonies have been made by those who have been through this condition and it is a pitiful condition which you, as a young person should try your best to avoid.

However, women with fistula face rejection and isolation and these two vices should not be encouraged in our society as people with this condition also need care and support just like everyone.

Lastly, as we all commemorate this day under the theme; End Fistula, Restore Women's Dignity, my message to all young girls in Malawi is that fistula is real and it is also very prevalent among young girls who go to maternity clinics for delivery.

12 Year-Old Girl Defying a 15 Km Journey in Pursuit of Education

12 year-old Mary Imran
Not many girls from  Mangochi district reach  standard 8 of their primary education and  this is attributed  the case due to a number of factors like child marriages, teen age pregnancies and lack of enthusiasm due to lack of role models. Further to this, young people from Mponda village in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Katuli have an additional causative obstacle which is a. long distance to and from school.   

Most young people get tired of the 15 km distance a few days after enrolling and they decide to drop out first and enroll again when they are old enough to manage the distance. However, most of the boys and girls return to school after getting older but they eventually drop out again after a few weeks as well. This time around, the reason for dropping out of school revolves around the issue of age. By the time the dropouts feel they are old enough to walk 30 kilometers to and from school for 5 days in a week, they get into a class that is full of learners who are two times younger than them. Coping up becomes difficult and they eventually dropout as they feel too old for standard 1. 

However, 12- year old Mary Imran who is a standard 3 learner at Kwisimba Primary School has a slightly similar story to tell but her story comes with a different twist at the end.  

In 2009, when she was exactly six years old, Mary enrolled at Kwisimba Primary School which is 15 km away from her village. She enrolled together with her two age-mates from her village as well.
After only a week, the three young girls realised that they were up against an insurmountable task. This is when they all realised why other older girls just stay at home despite having knowledge on the importance of education. 

Mary remembers the general body weakness and fatigue that made her feel paralytic on Saturday after walking for 30 km every day for 5 days. Her friends also complained similar ailments. The inevitable was about to happen and just like many others before them; they dropped out of primary school without much ado. The agreement was that they will go back to school after reaching 12 years of age as their muscles and bones will be stronger and harder. 

Upon reaching the age of 10 in 2013, Mary was old enough to join a group of adolescent girls which she had always been wishing to join since the group was established but age was the only limiting factor. 

After the then 10-year old Mary joined Mponda Adolescent Girls Club whose establishment was facilitated by UN-JPAG (United Nations Joint Programme on Adolescent Girls), Mary has been learning a lot and the group’s activities met her expectations. 

One day, during one of their usual sessions, all the group members were encouraged to go to school. Mary remembers the lengthy discussion which the group had on the importance of education.
After that particular session, she went straight to her two friends and pleaded
with them to return to school but the two still felt too young to go to school again unless they add another two years.

Determined and unwavering, Mary enrolled in standard 1 of her primary school studies again in 2013 at the age of 10 and not 6 as is the right age in Malawi. In her class, there were younger learners than her. She stated that many of them were only six years old. However, to her, the difference of 4 years is negligible unlike 12 to 6 years.      
She recommenced her studies and took them seriously so much that she is now in standard 3 and in the last academic term, Mary scooped position number 2 in a class of over 15 learners. She is very confident that her dream of becoming a secondary school teacher will one day come true. 

“I always get along well with my fellow learners and the age difference is not that huge unlike if I had started school when I was 12,” said Mary. 

She stated that the activities of Mponda Adolescent Girls Club have tremendously changed her life and she boasts of being equipped with relevant and age appropriate information about sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Young People; Let’s Stay Away from Drug and Substance Abuse

Young people are exposed to a number of hard drugs and substances which they use to feel what they call ‘high’. Sadly, these drugs and substances are habit-forming and the addiction has several related negative consequences which include; academic difficulties, Poor peer relationships, increase in crime rate, family conflicts, the community and health related problems.

In education, the use of drugs lead to general decline of academic performance among young users and increases school dropouts among other things.

In terms of health, drug users risk physical as well as mental health disorders and this sometimes leads to death and a loss to the society.

Hard drugs lead to the spread of HIV as well as STIs and this is one aspect which most users do not know. When one is under the influence of drugs, he or she is likely to engage in casual and unprotected sex. Thus, unplanned pregnancies and contraction of HIV as well as STIs are among SRH issues that are connected to the use and abuse of drugs and substances.

Young people should do all they can to stay away from drugs. Further to this, it is everybody’s responsibility to ensure that young people are keeping their distances from drugs and negative peer pressure should be discouraged. Counselling among those who are addicted to drugs should not be ignored – Young people who are addicted to drugs should be referred to institutions that offer counselling and rehabilitation.

Together We Can Change The Youth!!!

Friday, 8 May 2015

The Youth are Suffering Amidst Plenty in Malawi- Know where you can Access SRH Services

The government of the republic of Malawi and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are trying their best to make sexual reproductive health services accessible to young people.
The government, through its public health centres, has established   Youth Health Friendly Service Centres where SRH services are provided to young people for free.

Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) also provides counselling as well as SRH information and other related services for free through the Tithandizane National Helpline. Through this initiative, young people can get SRH information and counselling services using the toll free Tithandizane Helpline number - 8000 1234.

Furthermore, the organization also has Youth Drop In Centers where young people access condoms and SRH information.  The youth who are in Ntcheu and Rumphi districts have all the reasons to smile because YONECO, with support from UNICEF, established model Drop In Centres where the youth have an option of getting information from the internet.  All this – free of charge!

Further to this, apart from the government and YONECO’s SRH services, other NGOs and institutions also provide these services to young people. The services are there right in your community; it is simply an issue of knowing where to find them within your locality.

 There are so many places where you, as a young person, can get free SRH services and information.  It is heartrending to note that young people in Malawi are ‘dying of thirst while their legs are dipped in plenty of water’.