Conference Proceeding

Upscaling SRHRR (SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH & REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS) Among Adolescents and Young People In Rural Zimbabwe

Mr. Mthandazo Khumalo,
YALI RLC Fellow, RLCSA, South Africa

Mthandazo is the IAS Youth Ambassador and Chapter Leader of World Youth Alliance Zimbabwe Chapter. He is also an emerging researcher in development processes occuring across the global village. He is also an active global citizen and an ambitious young professional/researcher advocating for just, fair and equal communities and has demonstrated experience in research, volunteerism, programme planning and implementation, human rights, civic participation sexual reproductive health rights and livelihoods development key populations in Sustainable HIV response, Youth Empowerment and Disasters Mthandazo has worked/volunteered for various organisations including Restless Development, Partnership for Poverty Reduction, Seeds Theatre Group. Inc, ORAP, WFP, Tulip, Cotlands, and GoUNESCO. He is also an active participating member of World Youth Alliance and South African Development Studies Association, YALI Network and Young Professionals in Agriculture Development and Youth Power Champion. Mthandazo would like to be one of the young people that spearhead achievement of Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and Agenda 2063 as well as improving the plight of impoverished masses who are in excruciating poverty. He hopes to inspire other young people so that they can become active and responsible catalysts for genuine change.

Background: Since the global community is making progress towards 90 90 90 fast track targets by 2020, there is a challenge of ensuring that young people and adolescents receive SRHR quality knowledge and services. In developing countries including rural Zimbabwe, young people and adolescents generally lack sufficient SRHRR knowledge and access to services. In addition to that data, communication as well as education materials about SRHR are not fully accessible as well as being geared to their needs. UN Statistics have suggested a tripling rise of HIV/AIDS related deaths among young people since 2000 in Zimbabwe. Statistics from UNFPA in Zimbabwe indicate that teenage pregnancies in the past five years have sharply increased with most cases being recorded in rural areas. This high prevalence has clearly demonstrated a serious need to increase knowledge as well as full access to sexual reproductive health information and services around the country. Past studies have suggested a need to intensify advocacy, social and behavior change communication regarding adolescents and young people. Restless Development Zimbabwe through the ICS programme in rural areas continues to work on Upscaling access to quality SRHRR services as well as improved knowledge. The main objective of the programme was to examine the Upscaling of SRHRR among young people and adolescents. The sub-objectives of programme aimed at increasing awareness of SRHR services and information. The other objective was also to remove barriers which institutionalize sexual reproductive health rights in order to scale services and ensure full access.
Description: The ICS programme was implemented by both Team Leaders and volunteers who had been recruited in the ICS Programme with the help of Restless Development management. This programme was conducted with key populations which comprised of young people and adolescents who received SRHRR sessions as well as access to information and services in clinics and schools around their communities between August 2015 to November 2015. Well planned SRHRR and HIV/AIDS education interventions were implemented. A rights based approach was adopted as it specifically centered on the health and well being of young people and adolescents. This project was conducted in the rural wards of Bulilima District in Zimbabwe. More than 20 000 young people and adolescents were receiving SRHRR lessons in both schools and clinics in youth friendly corners as well as community hence they had access to such kind of information and services. Their knowledge and access to such services was analysed at weekly intervals and through awareness campaigns as well as sessions done by volunteers and Team Leaders in each placement. For each SRHRR session thorough knowledge was given to young people and adolescents. To assess the impact of the programme, there was utilization of monitoring and evaluation tools such as SRHRR registers and activity registers as well as one on one session interviews with young people and adolescents in the rural areas. The programme also conducted full stakeholders’ involvement of community leaders and other stakeholders working towards the same scope of Restless Development.
Lessons Learnt: SRHR education interventions have been found to increase knowledge as well as develop life skills and positive attitudes required in order to change risky behaviours. The programme used the process oriented approach in order to influence the key populations’ discussions as well as gather more data. Of the 20 000 young people who were reached through ICS programme, 90 % of the key populations reporting behavior change and also reported to have both received SRHR knowledge and services in clinics and schools whilst the remaining 10% received SRHR services and quality information in schools through peer education sessions and awareness campaigns. For young people and adolescents, access to youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services as well as HIV prevention, treatment, care and support has this has proven to be lifesaving. Lessons learnt also include the issues that there should be an increased massive scale up of a comprehensive youth friendly SRHR and HIV services for adolescents and young people in both rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe. In addition, SRHR services and knowledge designed to reach young people and adolescents in schools, clinics and communities can increase accessibility as well as high confidence among those sexually active people. Furthermore, ensuring that young people and adolescents have access to SRHR services and knowledge is vital to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and HIV infections among these groups. Of all the young people who were part of this programme, they made informed decisions about living healthily and safe lives. Moreover, full stakeholders involvement especially community leadership helped to remove barriers which had been institutionalizing SRHR knowledge and quality to services.
Conclusion: Enhanced knowledge on how Upscaling of SRHRR can aid in high behavior change communications, lessens levels of teenage pregnancies as well as reducing HIV infections and deaths among young people and adolescents. SRHR services and knowledge increases the use of male and female condoms and reduces the number of sexual partners among those young people and adolescents who were sexually active, facilitating access to HIV testing (VCT) and early treatment of STIS. Although there has been a great stride in SRHR access to services and knowledge, vast efforts are needed such that 2020 Fast Track Targets are met on both HIV prevention and teenage pregnancy elimination. Again evidence also suggests that the participation of young people and adolescents is significant in sustainable HIV prevention and lessening teenage pregnancies .Increased access to SRHR information for NGOs and civil societies working with young people and adolescents.

Published: 05 May 2017