By Robert Tapfumaneyi
Traditionally, in Zimbabwe it is taboo to discuss sexual education with adolescents. Normally policymakers and community leaders avoid discussions about sexual education because they do not want to provoke controversy. Some argue that it promotes promiscuity.
However, the 2011/2 Zimbabwe Young Adult Survey indicates that 71% of females aged 15 to 24 and almost all males (99%) of the same age had their first sexual experience before marriage.
It is clear from this that if issues of adolescent sexuality are not addressed a lot of our young men and women will not be able to achieve their full potential.
With this in mind, parliamentarians, traditional chiefs and youths met to discuss issues on how to disseminate information on sexual and reproductive health to young people. At the meeting, held under the topic Investing in young people in the future. Scaling up access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for adolescents and young people, Chief Fred Gambiza said the lack of dialogue between parents and children is a cause for concern as it creates a gap made worse by the amount of information children are now exposed to through the internet.
Obert Chigodora, a programme officer at Padare/Enkundleni/Mens Forum, said the forum has created adult-youth partnerships in communities through the use of pre-existing community structures to raise awareness on sexual and reproductive health (SRHR) issues.
“Through use of the planning and support tool we have managed to bring community ownership to the project. Songs have been composed, interesting names produced as evidence of embracing the project, and commitment charters developed,” Chigodora said.
Leo Munyoho of Students and Youth Working on Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) said sporting events remain a key mobiliser of young people and can be very effective platforms to reach out to youth with SRHR information.
The opinion from various youth organisations was that the way some national education and communication materials have been produced make it difficult for local people to identify with them.
Groups also said a tool for interpreting and evaluating programmes was difficult to use and that the collapse of certain youth networks meant it was proving difficult to coordinate activities at community level. The emerging trend of young people moving from one place to another in search of livelihood was also raised.
The meeting was organised by SAfAIDS and also attended by officials from Women’s Action Group, Batanai HIV and AIDS organisation and Bezekela Home Based Care.