Yoneco sets up SMS service for youth sexual reproductive health

Youth Net and Counseling (Yoneco) has launched a mobile phone Short Message Service (SMS) through which young people would e able to access information on sexual reproductive and other health related issues affecting them.

The system, which was on trial since January and went national wide on 1 August this year, is also expected to tackle issues of child protection and child labour.

Yoneco Executive Director, MacBen Mkandawire told Nyasa Times during a media tour on Thursday in Mangochi that since the system was launched it has received over 6,000 contacts.

“Every person wants to join has to register by sending an SMS and once a member, they will be able to ask ad access information and clarification on issues that affect them ranging from HIV and Aids, Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs), teen pregnancies and other sexual reproductive health related issues.

MacBen Mkandawire:YONECO Executive Director

“The initiative will allow youths to express themselves freely as in most cases they are shy or feel embarrassed to talk or seek information on some of the sexual reproductive health matters. The system provides confidence in the user,” said Mkandawire.

Mkandawire said by sending an SMS, the youth will be able to get answers which are already registered in the system. But in the context where the answers are not in the system, Yoneco counselors will be able to provide some.

“We have counselors who will be helping in finding answers and providing solutions to some of the concerns or questions on issues not registered in the system. The responses from the counselors will be firstly certified by a supervisor before sent to the client,” he said.

According to Mkandawire, the system new in the country will provide a platform through which young people will able to interact with other stakeholders dealing with such issues.

The SMS line is 0881512409 and is charged on normal SMS standard rate. And currently, Mkandawire said they were working on having a centralized short code.

Meanwhile, Yoneco has established service centres in Mangochi as well as surrounding districts through which it is addressing issues of teen marriages and pregnancies as well as reforming commercial sex workers.

Through the centres, commercial sex workers are trained on issues of condom use, HIV and Aids prevention and other interventions to curb the spread of the virus and other STIs.

Yoneco is also using the centre as an advocate to reduce cases of early school drop out by teenage girls as well as cases of early marriages, which have become a phenomenal in the district of Mangochi.

Yoneco's band performing. Photo by Jeromy Kadewere/Nyasa Times

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