Young people need to know

Ambassador and youthIn Zimbabwe, numerous policies and guidelines reflect regional and international conventions and declarations on SRHR. However, the implementation of policies has been limited. The prevailing social, political and economic environment, together with a prominent focus on vertical HIV programmes and a lack of awareness and capacity for integration has resulted in limited access to SRHR services and poor protection of SRH and rights. This also means that while good policies exist, there has been limited awareness and advocacy among policy makers, civil society and service providers to uphold or integrate the policies and services that protect reproductive and sexual health and rights. As a result, the environment in which young people are learning, growing and developing as sexual beings, presents limited opportunities for attaining their sexual and reproductive health rights. In 2009, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), a civil society organisation, conducted as assessment of young people’s needs  for sexual and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS interventions, which indicated that sex work, intergenerational relationships, early marriages, early sex debut and unplanned pregnancies were among the challenges young people faced.

Beyond cultural barriers and physical barriers young people try by any means to get answers to their questions. Whether mythical or factual, research has proven that this is the most inquisitive age (adolescents) where learning in influenced by experiments and trial and errors. Various surveys in Zimbabwe have shown that, young people (those between the ages 10 – 24years) do not access information readily due to social, physical, technical and economic barriers. In most communities discussing sexuality and sex at home or other public places is a taboo. There is still an overlap between the traditional and modern medicine and young people opt for what is available.

PADARE in a bid to scale up access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for adolescents and young people and to mobilise communities to promote the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV infection is embarking on programmes that address young people’s issues, break barriers to access to SRHR services and care. This also includes addressing norms, practices and behaviours  that prevent health seeking behaviours. PADARE has realised gaps in SRHR programming within and among stakeholders and most of them policy makers.

A field visit from the Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe (His Excellency Mr Lars Ronnås) provoked every adult to see issues from the eyes of the youth. He commended that it is necessary for adults to come to the level of the youth if they have to understand them and in adults he was referring to the parents, communitites, services providers, policy makers and opinion formers. He demonstrated that he is an adult that is able  to bring his calibre, office and status to the level of a young boy or girl. Afrikagrupperna in Zimbabwe is working to ensure that women, men, girls and boys have increased awareness and knowledge of SRHR and that implementing partners are advocating for the government to ensure that SRHR services are available, accessible, user friendly and inclusive.

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