Distance to health facilities and Youth Drop-in Centers (YDC) offering youth friendly health services is one of the contributing factors hindering girls in Chinkhwawa from accessing services targeting young people, it has been observed.
Traditional Authority (T/A) Masache of Chinkhwawa made the observation, during an outreach meeting organized by Youth Net Counseling (YONECO) on Tuesday.
Project Officer for YONECO Hughes Munthali said most adolescent girls do not have access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRH – R) services a situation that lead the youngsters to having sexual relationships with older partners who act as a source of income and
assurance of economic security.
“Poverty and lack of alternative livelihood often drive adolescent girls to engage into sexual relationships with older partners and in the course risking their lives to HIV infection,” said Munthali adding that, “ways of taking SRH – R services to girls like ‘these’ have to be devised before its two late.”
Munthali also said that the vulnerability of adolescent girls in relation to SRH – R and HIV issues cannot be overlooked as evidenced by the findings of the Malawi Demographic Health Surveillance Survey (2010) which indicates that the HIV prevalence among girls is pegged
at 5 % as compared to 2 % for boys of the same age category.
According to Data generated for 2011 from the Tithandizane Helpline for Chikhwawa District shows that SRH – R and HIV related issues are most topical as well as of the total calls received from Chikhwawa (1610 calls) with less adolescent girls accessing the services that is
Munthali also blamed cultural practices like ‘Kuchosa fumbi’ (sexual cleansing) and “Nthena” (bonus for the son in-law) that contribute the spread of HIV among girls
“Such cultural practices are imposed on girls as a means of intimidation contributing to the vulnerability of innocent girls,” he said.
Munthali disclosed YONECO’s objective to increase access to SRH – R services and reach 1,400 adolescent girls both in their catchment areas of Mangochi and Chikhwawa.
He said the organization intends to publicize the Helpline service it introduced as alternative source of information and counseling on SRH – R related issues.
Apart from its major Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights projects like the United For Body Rights (UFBR) with support from the Dutch Government and the Yankhulani funded by the Scottish Government,
YONECO pioneered the Tithandizane Helpline which has now graduated into National Child Helpline due to its impact.
The Helpline acts a hub of counseling and information dissemination for SRH – R related issues to young people through its various initiatives including the toll free line 80001234; free postal service and the SMS Bulk Tool.
Activities implemented include the training of peer educators; training of community based counselors for the YONECO Resources Centre’s as well as Outreach activities in T/A Katuli, Mangochi and T/A Masache, Chikhwawa.
The project is expected to increased the number of adolescent girls accessing SRH – R services in Health facilities, to foster continued outreach initiatives by the respective District Health Offices of Mangochi and Chikhwawa, to see to it that there is increased awareness among adolescent girls about the Helpline services as a SRH – R information and counseling tool and make sure that there is increased awareness and access to Sexual Reproductive Health Services among
adolescent youth in Chikhwawa and Mangochi.