Listening to the concerns of several traditional and religious left me sad, albeit, sympathetic. I wondered whether young people do not want the best for themselves when it comes to issues that concern their sexual reproductive health. The leaders I met in Chikwawa district during a meeting on young people and sexual reproductive health expressed their great terrors over what has become of young people of today. The leaders pointed out several SRH challenges which young people in the district are facing.
This entry is a result of how I felt obliged to engage fellow young people over SRH challenges that have made the custodians of culture and the clergy to have that deep fear. The frontrunners in religion high rates of planned or unplanned teen pregnancies, increased prevalence rate of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among young people, child marriages and many other such challenges.
Local leaders indicated that apart from forced child marriage happening here and there; most young people who marry before reaching the age of 18 make the decision to do so against disapproval and wise counsel from parents and older relatives. I do not know how far true this statement is but I have also seen some young girls dropping out of school taking matrimonial vows against the wishes of parents. Upon facing resistance, some young boys and girls just leave their homes and start cohabiting with a partner.
However, the war against forced child marriages is slowly being won and the progress is also evident in the way local leaders have avowed their commitment to end forced child marriages in their areas.
Another traditional leader openly accused young people of indulging in sexual promiscuity and justify their actions by asserting that they are doing such things because they were told at initiation camp. The leader further added that, nowadays, most initiators do not talk about sexual cleansing anymore. My take on that one is firstly on the youth who live in urban areas where they do not go to initiation camps. Young people tend to blame information from initiation camps and take it as a cover to indulge in unprotected sex.
Information about the dangers of unprotected sex is just everywhere and it is hard to note that the youth are not willing to take heed. Secondly, young people who go to initiation camps should be assertive enough to challenge some wrong information they get. It is high time young people across the country started visiting health centres and clinics where they can get correct and reliable info ration about SRH.
Some religious leaders also blamed young people for their shyness which prevents them from knowing their denomination’s stand on various SRHR services like contraceptives. One religious leader indicated that he is always saddened by the increase in the number of young people from his church who are getting pregnant.
Young people need to set their priorities straight. This involves setting goals in life and using all possible and legitimate means of achieving their goals. This also includes saying no to child marriages, preventing STIs including HIV as well as avoiding unwanted pregnancies through abstinence from sex or seeking SRHR services.