MyAge Zimbabwe pushes for universal access to Sexual Reproductive Health services.

MyAge Zimbabwe pushes for universal access to Sexual Reproductive Health services

By Letwin Mubonesi

Zimbabwe has been on top of statistics where early child marriages, teen pregnancies and drug abuse among the youth are rampant and that there are also legal barriers to access to sexual reproductive health services by young people in the country, despite evidence that many already engage in sexual activities at an early age.

MyAge Zimbabwe programmes manager, Joseph Njowa said his organisation is pushing for universal access to SRH services because many adolescents have already engaged in sexual activities.

He said, “Specifically, we are focusing on the following areas such as contributing to the movement which entails participating and contributing to consortiums and coalitions pushing for universal access. We also generate public support for universal access focusing on key non-official players (media, parents, churches, political parties, and others as well as support parliamentary champions to push the agenda of access of SRH services for young people.”

However, Njowa decried that there are a number of barriers that restrict access to SRH services, and all laws that are meant to promote access to services are regressive.

For instance, the Public Health Act gives no access to SRH services for persons below the age of 16 without the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

Access is impossible and youth people are the most affected as they are engaging in sexual activities at an early age.

He said, “We need to repackage our evidence and learn from the responses that come from the key influencers, the Health and Child Care ministry, churches, parents and political parties. There is overwhelming evidence that shows that there are groups within adolescents and young people that need to access health services.

“Not all adolescents and young people have parents who can consent on their behalf. When we look at issues to do with reproductive health, there is a dilemma between young people and adults.

“For example, what are the chances that a young person can tell their parent that they need to access healthcare because they have contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STI), or young people who do not have parents or guardians to consent on their behalf. The current child marriage prevalence is at 33%, which means one in every three girls is getting married below the age of 18.”

Njowa added that, reports all over indicate that adolescents are getting pregnant, which is evidence that sexual interactions are happening whether inter-generational, which in most cases is abuse, or peer to peer, or even transactional as we have girls that are selling sex so the best way to support young people in these kind of situations is to give them the option to access health services without challenges.

However, MyAge Zimbabwe is also pushing for the Marriage Bill that was recently debated and finalised in parliament to be passed a law and their advocacy has also influenced policy implementation resulting in improved access to sexual and reproductive health, information and services for young people.

He said, “The Bill has very progressive provisions that can help the agenda to begin taking a foothold against child marriages.”

Nyari Mashayamombe

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