HomeAfrica-NewsGearing up for 8 Billion Day: UNFPA celebrates the rural girl

Gearing up for 8 Billion Day: UNFPA celebrates the rural girl

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A week before the world recognized 8 Billion Day, the United Nations thought and action leader on population issues, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), marked this occasion by celebrating the girl .

South African adolescents and youth face many health and social challenges. Most of the new incidence of HIV is among young people, especially young women and girls. There has also been an alarming rate of increase in facility births among girls, ages 10 to 19. In an attempt to increase the uptake of health services by this cohort, the Department of Health has established Youth Zones at public health facilities across the country to create a supportive environment for young people to openly discuss their health problems. health without fear of being judged.

The Youth Zone at the Qumbu Health Centre, Eastern Cape, launched with a two-day youth engagement and on-site support programme, held on 7-8 November . The celebration included a deep dive into the district’s unique dynamics and priorities specific to efforts to advance teen pregnancy prevention.

Schoolgirls receive sanitary napkins as part of an initiative supported by Old Mutual.

According to nurse Nomahomba Sohuma, the dedicated time slot and safe space allow young people to access health services such as family planning, HIV testing, and treatment for various minor ailments and injuries.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) South Africa, in partnership with the Government of the Eastern Cape, Mail & Guardian and various stakeholders engage in youth advocacy events to focus on closing inequality gaps, with a targeted focus in an action plan on adolescent pregnancy. .

“Whether rural or urban, no girl in the world should be left behind,” said Yordanos Mehari, UNFPA Deputy Representative. “Services provided during the Youth Zone include the care package available in the clinics, with a specific focus on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV-related services. This age group remains one of UNFPA’s priorities as we work to ensure that every young person’s potential is realized,” Mehari said.

UNFPA’s partnership with the Department of Health in the Adolescent Youth Friendly Services program includes support to promote access and use of health and other services; provide information and raise awareness on health related issues; and education on sexual and reproductive health rights and youth rights.

Although some serious topics were discussed that day, pupils from various schools around Qumbu were in a celebratory mood. There was singing and dancing and some of the students even participated in friendly debates, where they discussed the dangers and effects of having unprotected sex.

Mehari said that UNFPA initiated support for the reduction of adolescent pregnancy in 2014 by modeling the Integrated School Health Program (ISHP) approach to adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of the Eastern and Southern Africa commitment on Comprehensive Education in Sexuality. This culminated in better collaboration, coordination, and solution of barriers in access to quality Comprehensive Sexual Education for young people in the province.

Sanitary pads, part of an initiative supported by Old Mutual, are given to schoolgirls

The two-day community engagement sessions were approached from the perspective that unwanted adolescent pregnancy requires holistic approaches that empower girls to help them make decisions about their lives, including sexual and reproductive health, gaining support of men and boys in their lives. and offering other opportunities so that motherhood is not seen as their only destination. Some of the esteemed guests and social partners included representatives from the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders (ECHTL), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), TB HIV Care and the South African Police (SAPS).

Sohuma added that because the Qumbu community was rural and due to various socioeconomic barriers within the community, some people, especially adolescent girls, were unable to receive or pay for some health care services. “But now, with these Youth Zones, young people will be able to receive first-rate medical care to ensure a longer life,” she said.

Liziwe Lunyawo, representative of the provincial health department, said teenage pregnancies lead to illegal abortions, risk of death and a high number of school dropouts.

“School-age girls often hide their pregnancy because they fear being judged by healthcare providers, and end up carrying the burden themselves, creating enormous stress and dropping out of school. We trust that with the opening of these Youth Zones, young people will be empowered in terms of having more information about the prevention of pregnancy and the contraction of STIs. [sexually transmitted infections] or HIV/AIDS,” said Lunyawo.

She said the plan was to see more Youth Zones launched across the province and to strengthen the school health system.

ECHTL President Nkosi Mpumulanga Gwadiso said UNFPA’s commitment was in line with its own theme for 2022, which focused on the sustainable development of children and their freedom from all forms of abuse. “This commemoration is linked to our programs and was [natural] reach an agreement with UNFPA”.

Gwadiso also pointed out that alcohol abuse was a major contributor to the high number of school dropouts and broken families. “SAPS will agree with me when I say that most of the cases that are opened on the weekends include cases of domestic violence caused by alcohol abuse, and most of the victims are girls.”

She reminded the girls that they had the privilege of being in school and that they should be proud to be in school, because many girls don’t have this opportunity.

“I know that girls compete with each other, but they must compete for productive and positive decisions. Lots of girls hook up with older men because they want money for the things other guys have, and that’s where the danger lies. I prefer girls to envy each other for the best achievements in school. We do not take this day lightly. The girls are our pride and our hope for the future and that is why I support these types of events, but we need young people to also take themselves seriously and carry themselves with pride.”

He added that the Youth Zones are important: “We support them and say they need to be replicated in other clinics and other parts of the rural Eastern Cape.”

SALGA official Unathi Hlatuka said they would lobby for each clinic to have a youth area. “We have heard the statements and understand the treatment girls receive when they go to clinics, and we should hang our heads in shame. But I also think that young women need to understand their responsibility, which is to respect the older people who provide their health care. They should always watch their attitude and not be arrogant when seeking medical help and be humble so that the nurse or health care provider is dedicated to assisting them.

He said young people also have a responsibility to ensure they have a future and not get distracted by material things and other unnecessary pressures girls face.

South Africa is one of 21 countries that have endorsed the Eastern and Southern Africa Pledge which calls on countries to strengthen the delivery and quality of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and sexual and reproductive health rights for young people. Governments, civil society and international organizations have championed remarkable progress in expanding sexual and reproductive rights and choices for many years. While significant progress has been made in expanding access to services and information, challenges remain and UNFPA and its partners are working to close these inequality gaps!

— Ziphozenkosi and Ziyanda Ngoma (UNFPA)

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