By Andrew Bishop Mkandawire
Through the WISH2ACTION project funded by the UK government through Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) has resurrected efforts to ensure social inclusion in the provision of contraception information and services among the youth, women, and men. This was learned during youth and health workers quarterly cluster review meetings that took place in Lilongwe and Kasungu in September 2022.
Elizabeth Banda 14 and Faith Mafuta 15 were some youth with disabilities who attended the quarterly cluster review meeting in Area 25 cluster. They were escorted by their guardians. “As parents, we need to ensure that youth with disabilities are also enjoying social inclusion with their peers. That is the only way they can learn about society values and health issues in particular,” said Mphatso Banda, mother to Elizabeth.
“It is no longer a secret that girls who have started menstruating need to know how to engage in safer sex. This secrecy has led to many girls falling pregnant when they are still very young because they do not get linked with service delivery points that are youth friendly for counselling and guidance. I have brought Faith to get connected with health workers to know more about reductive health,” said Caroline Mafuta, aunt to Caroline and a businesswoman at Area 25 market.
Chiefs and parents who attended the meetings expressed how the W2A project will help both youth and parents understand importance of sexual reproductive health to people of reproductive age. “We people under Senior Chief Wimbe, we welcome the project again because it promotes social inclusion in accessing family planning for good health. We know that cultural beliefs and religious restrictions are still inhibiting some youth to fully access contraception services and that’s why this time chiefs are also here to sensitize communities and educate them about the health benefits it has to all of us. Youth will now have the energy to teach their peers and parents and guardians about reproductive health services available to our people,” said GHV Mpeni representing Senior Chief Wimbe in Kasungu district.
“I didn’t know more about all types of modern contraceptive methods. Now I’m going to teach my colleagues about loop, condoms, pills, injectables and implant contraceptives and link our fellow youth with health workers.
We are going to use drama through our youth club to reach more youth who do not have adequate information about contraception. I have also liked the concept of youth targeted outreaches which follow where youth are and this will also help youth with disabilities to easily access the contraceptive services,” explained Khilifodi Zimbili 25, Motorcycle Taxi Driver from Mtunthama in Kasungu.
Dabson Chunga, MACOHA Community Rehabilitation Worker in Lilongwe emphasized that youth with disabilities need not to face any restriction in accessing sexual reproductive health services because they have the right to engage in safer sex, have children and they need to be protected from sexually transmitted infections including HIV.
The Deputy Family Planning Coordinator of Kasungu District Health Office, Lydia Msowoya, alerted youth that their success begins with planning. “No one will decide for you how to become healthy and successful in life. You need to take care of yourselves by access health services that make you healthier and strong to work. Take the contraception information you have learnt to your colleagues.
“The more youth and parents are engaged in understanding the benefits of sexual reproductive health and rights information and services, the more youth become cautionary and know when to engage in safer sex. For instance, most youth do not have adequate information about cervical cancer. That’s why such meetings are important, “said Madalisto Pengapenga Changalusa, FYHS focal person from Bwaila hospital in Lilongwe. The youth and health workers quarterly cluster review meetings took place in Santhe, Kasungu District Hospital, Chamama and Mtunthama clusters in Kasungu district and Area 25, Kawale and Deayang clusters in Lilongwe. The youth and health workers also showed that some communication materials distributed in the previous project period like SD cards, Kulera flipcharts and T-Shirts helped a lot to disseminate family planning information because the messages were interactive, illustrative and message provider were easily identified and trusted