What adolescents want regarding access to sexual reproduction services | New times
More than 150 young people and decision-makers concluded a two-day national conference where they gathered to discuss their challenges and propose practical solutions on “adolescent access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)”.
The conference, which brought together adolescents from four provinces and the city of Kigali, development partners, policy makers and stakeholders, including government institutions, was organized under the theme ‘Amplifying voices towards access to SDSR services ”.
Although different topics were discussed, the issue of teenage pregnancies that have increased over the years was at the center of every conversation.
Below are some of the highlights of the recommendations made by the teens and other conference participants.
1- Inform parents
Although there are no current statistics, available data from the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion indicates that a total of 19,701 girls across the country gave birth between January and December 2020.
Dan Shema of King David Academy International School says such high numbers can be avoided if parents who are at the forefront of child protection are trained early enough on how to talk to their children about issues. related to sexuality and reproductive health.
“Getting this information in a timely manner and from a trusted source like your parents is definitely more helpful because most of the time we rely on social media where we cannot tell the difference between correct, partially correct information. or totally false, “he said.
2- Train healthcare providers
In its July 2020 survey of health and social service providers entitled “Availability, accessibility and quality of adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in urban health facilities in Rwanda”, the University of Rwanda (UR) states that sexual and reproductive health services in the country are available for the general population but are not specifically designed for adolescents.
The university claims that although services are quite accessible to adolescents, they are of insufficient quality as adolescents themselves are not fully involved in service delivery, among other aspects of quality SRH, as required. World Health Organization (WHO).
During the conference, Donatha Muyizere, from Kinyinya sector, Gasabo district, said that she had had her baby when she was 14 years old.
She says her visit to her local health center has discouraged her from seeking information and as a result, she also discourages her peers from visiting due to the pointed and sometimes daunting questions asked by the staff.
“I went for an HIV test and the lady who took care of me started to wonder if I had had unprotected sex the night before. Before I could answer, she started lecturing me on how this generation is uneducated. I apologized and walked out. I’ve never been back, ”she said.
Francine Uwayezu, nurse at Remera Health Center, told participants that although sexual and reproductive health services are available, adolescents, who are the target, do not seek them because there is little awareness and quality of services. .
She also pointed out that many of those providing these services are older men or women who lack the skills to talk to young people about their sexuality.
Uwayezu added that another challenge is that health centers do not have staff who specifically deal with sexual and reproductive health services. This means that the services are provided like the others, which discourages many young people.
“Young people don’t have time to queue, especially because they are afraid of meeting someone they know. It is important that there is a young person who only comes to the health center on a daily basis to look after young people seeking these services, ”she said.
3- Bring SRHR services to rural areas
Françoise Tuyizere, a teenager from Karongi district, West Province, said there was a need to push for more information to be available to young people in rural areas.
“When you go to the inner cities of the country, you will find information, but when you move deeper into the rural areas, there is no information on sexual and reproductive health. This should change, ”she said.
Tuyizere called for a nationwide general audit to assess whether the services are being delivered, or if they are being delivered to the right people and if there is an impact.
4- Prioritize sexuality education in TTCs
Tuyizere said there is a need to introduce comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in teacher training colleges (TTC) and should be a priority.
“Teachers should have ESC as their main course because without making it a priority, they are also not fully equipped with the skills and information they need to impart knowledge about sexual and reproductive health,” he said. she declared.
Vital Gatoyi, teacher at IPRC Kigali, said that there is still a cultural problem that limits the degree of openness one can exert in talking about sexuality, which makes it difficult for both student and teachers.
He called for special training for teachers but also for teaching materials that can be used to help both the teacher and the learners of CSE. The CSE is integrated into five subjects, two in primary schools (elementary science and technology and social studies) and three in secondary schools, namely; Biology and health sciences, general studies and communication skills, including history and citizenship.
5- Remove the parental consent requirement
16-year-old Heavens Mihigo says there is a need to revise the laws that continue to prevent adolescents under 18 from seeking certain sexual and reproductive services.
“We find some laws inconvenient. For example, requiring that a young person under the age of 16 be accompanied by a parent when requesting these services can be overwhelming. How can I tell a parent that I need a condom? He wondered.
6- Involve adolescents
Sandrine Muhimmphundu, an adolescent from Bugesera District, Eastern Province, called for user-friendly, accessible and appropriate sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people, including people with disabilities.
They called for services to be provided in the right place (not necessarily in health centers) and provided by a service provider trained in adolescent and youth friendly services.
They asked for their involvement in the design of these services as well as sufficient space to not only give their opinion, but also respond to them.
Health Development Initiative (HDI) deputy head of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights Ange Umutoni said adults need to start seeing the value of young people being empowered to make their own decisions. When they have the right information at the right time, they are able to do things right with a little guidance.
7- End the stigma against teenage moms
The adolescents addressed the issue of stigma against adolescent mothers. They called for campaigns that will involve teachers, parents, church leaders and the wider community on how to deal with teenage pregnancy issues.
“When a teenage girl becomes pregnant she is subject to a lot of stigma, but this unwanted pregnancy does not concern her alone. This is a social problem that must be dealt with collectively by the whole community. Boys and men should not be left behind, ”said Isai Nshimiyimana from Ndera sector.
Organized by the Health Development Initiative (HDI) in partnership with Plan International Rwanda and Norwegian People’s Aid, this is the second national conference on adolescent access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The premiere took place in 2019.