Include young people in SRHR issues: expert

Hazvinei Mwanaka

Government and organizations that deal with adolescents have been urged to include and impart them with the necessary information on Sexual Reproductive and Health Rights (SRHR) so that they are not victims of misinformation and disinformation.

Speaking during a workshop on SRHR recently in Harare, Diana Mailosi, coordinator for the Advocacy Core Team Compass, an organisation that deals with adolescents issues, said young people are the answers to their sexual reproductive health and rights.

“Young people should be included in SRHR, they are the solutions to some of the situations. There is need to hear them first, before doing other issues. They are not supposed to be limited with information, if they are limited they will be misinformed.”

“First of all we need to start talking about the teenage pregnancies that we are seeing in the country, right now while as a country we might not be looking at it or calling it a pandemic, it is a pandemic, we are seeing almost every province recording exactly the same thing. We have issues with our young girls falling pregnant and a lot of them are struggling to move from grade seven to form one and as a country we are comfortable with that situation,” she said.

According to Mailosi, the country is still witnessing stories of sexual abuse of young people that are not able to go to a health facility to access services after they have been abused.

“The reason behind this is because the same parents that we are saying are supposed to have the best interests of their children are being given cows, they are being paid to hide cases of sexual violence. We are seeing even perpetrators of sexual violence getting their victims and survivors of sexual violence as wives.

“Because in our culture we say if someone has slept with a girl then they must take them as a wife. So what are we doing to our young girls? We are killing their lives if we look at our HIV infection rate in the country; they are highest among 15 to 19 age group and we do not want to talk about the below 15 it is very difficult in this country to even get that statistics why, because we are trying to hide a pandemic that we have,” she added.

Mailosi suggested that as a country there is need to start talking about all these things that are happening and the need for young people to get the assistance they need at the right time that they need it.

“Can a girl who has been sexually abused walk into a health facility and get the necessary support she needs, counselling, therapy, Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) or whatever methodology they need to be able to avoid themselves contracting HIV or STIs and pregnancies?”

She said right now most young people are sexually active and it is something that parents are not eager to talk about.

“Are we saying we are comfortable with them getting HIV, STIs and being impregnated instead of saying can they get access to services they can afford? Yes we should be able to encourage people to abstain, but what about those who cannot abstain.

“Can I go to my neighbor, if my parent is the perpetrator? Can I go to a headman who needs to assist me, can I go to the sister in charge among other people, if they are the perpetrators? We are just then encouraging that whatever we do let’s not make the body of our young people a battle field for some of the moral conversations that we may have,” she said.

She however encouraged other stakeholders such as the church to come on board and the need for the country to act because the ones who are suffering a lot are the young people.

Over 69 000 girls between the age of 10 to 19 gave birth in 2022, according to Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (ZIMSTAT).

“A total of 69,335 females aged 10 to 19 had live births 12 months preceding the census night. Of these, 696, constituting 0.2 percent, were in the age group 10 to 14,” reads part of the report.

*Banner image copyright UN/ Hien Macline

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