Child rights activist with the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC), Maxim Marungweni, has called for bridging of the knowledge gap between parents and children on sexual reproductive health rights issues to ensure parent-to-child communication on sexual reproductive health rights.
Speaking to NewsDay Weekender this week on the sidelines of a Sadc Parliamentary Forum workshop on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), Marungweni said there was need to increase information on SRHR to children, especially those in rural areas.
He said his organisation had been training children in leadership positions like the Junior Parliament, Junior Councils and other child-led groups to highlight to them the gaps in SRHR knowledge by children.
“The children cited cultural and generational gap differences as a hindrance for them to engage with parents on reproductive health issues, and as a result they ended up relying on social media for such information. Unfortunately, they end up getting the wrong information,” Marungweni said.
“They pointed out that the school health policy does not adequately cover reproductive health issues. Most children are not even aware of the policy, raising the need to sensitise children on these SRHR issues at all schools especially rural areas.”
Marungweni said barriers to accessing contraceptives by children that were already sexually active was one of the major causes of the high rate of teenage or child pregnancies.
“The law does not allow children to freely access family planning contraceptives at public institutions without the consent of the parent. There is need for Zimbabwe to extensively discuss the issue of access to contraceptives for children and come up with the appropriate interventions since it is evident that children are engaged in sexual activities,” he said.
Another problem that the ZNCWC noted as hindering attainment of SRHR for children was unaffordability of sanitary wear at schools by the girl child, forcing them to lose learning hours during their monthly menstrual cycles.
“There is need for child and youth friendly centres that are equipped with age appropriate SRHR information, resources and services including trained human personnel that are able to interact with children. The economic deprivations of families, as well as girls and women’s lack of access to economic opportunities and resources affect their SRHR,” he said.
Marungweni said girls and young women do not have the necessary knowledge and capacities to articulate their demands for SRHR, or even to participate and influence policy decisions.
“Quality and integrated SRHR information and services, including gender-based violence response mechanisms, are scarcely available especially for girls and young women living in Hopley and Epworth, among other less-developed settlements in Harare,” he said.
As a result of the challenges that children are experiencing on SRHR issues, Marungweni said young people were now lobbying for the proposed Sadc Protocol on Children and Young People to be developed and implemented by Sadc member States.
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