Alvine Kapitako SWAKOPMUND - Young people in the eastern and southern African (ESA) regions are confronted with the same challenges regarding their sexual reproductive health and rights, despite their geographical location. This is according to Lorence Kabasele, the president of the African Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN) for the ESA who spoke to New Era over the weekend. Kabasele attended the national youth conference on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), which was themed ‘young people putting sexual reproductive health rights knowledge into practice’. Kabasele observed that young people lack concrete information regarding their SRHR in Namibia and that the situation is not different in other parts of ESA. SRHR encompasses the right of all individuals to make decisions concerning their sexual activity and reproduction free from discrimination, coercion and violence. Specifically, access to SRHR ensures individuals are able to choose whether, when, and with whom to engage in sexual activity, to choose whether and when to have children and to access the information and means to do so. “Young people have the same challenges of access to information on SRHR and youth-friendly services,” added Kabasele. During her official statement at the opening of the conference, Kabasele highlighted some of the challenges regarding SRHR in Africa. These include issues on poor policy implementation, limited access to SRHR information and services, lack of proper investment as well as high youth unemployment. “I am convinced that we, the young people, are the key drivers to social and economic development in our country,” said Kabasele. But in order to effectively contribute to the development of Namibia and the African continent as a whole, young people need skills in advocacy and meaningful youth engagement in order to influence policies. Sharing specifically on the challenges that young people face in her home country the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kabasele said children were being married off as young as 12 years old. “By law, a child should be married off when they are 18 years old. But in reality I went into villages where children as young as 12 years, 13 years are married,” explained Kabasele. She said child marriage in the DRC is different in urban and rural areas. In rural areas, a child is considered married merely by being impregnated. This, she explained, is because when a girl child is impregnated she is taken to her partner’s family home and oftentimes does not return home. Another concern regarding young people in DRC is their disregarding HIV testing, said Kabasele. “That’s the issue that AfriYAN is pushing with other youth-led organisations.” “The law says that a teenager cannot be tested without the parents’ consent. But when we talk with young people they are already sexually active and if they don’t know their HIV status they could be passing the virus to others without knowing,” Kabasele said. The second concern, said Kabasele, is that when a teenager is tested the parents should receive the results on behalf of their child. “When the parents go and get the results they hide the truth from their children.” On a positive note, there is a lot of activism currently ongoing to have that law repealed, Kabasele said. “Things look positive,” she added.
2018-07-24 09:14:36 1 months ago