Zimbabwean population is youthful and out of the total population of approximately 15 million, 60% is constituted by young people aged between 15 to 35. Despite being the majority; youths remain at the receiving end in as far as accessing social services that are responsive to their sexual health needs is concerned. Spaces for them to influence decision making and policy formulation in regards to sexual and reproductive health and rights remain limited hence they become recipients of decisions made in their absence. This was part of the findings of the Youth SRHR Needs Assessment conducted by Community Youth Development Trust in Gwanda, Mzingwane and Matobo early this year. The assessment also validated the availability and the accessibility of the youth SRHR services as a way of better understanding youth needs and concerns to inform evidence-based programing.
Further, investigations established that lack of youth friendly policies at local level affects the agency of ensuring a coordinated and comprehensive provision of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the three districts of Matabeleland South. However, the available sexual and reproductive health and rights in local health institutions are informed by the provisions of the National ASRH strategy which is hardly known by other key stakeholders such as local authorities. This is despite the fact that every human being has a fundamental right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of health without distinction of any kind.
As such, for sexual and reproductive health to be attained and maintained, the sexual and reproductive health rights of all persons must be respected, protected and supported by a localized policy framework. Therefore, institutionalization of Youth Friendly SRHR Policies from local to national level shall create a holistic implementation of SRHR programs that promote youth access and utilization of such services even at rural community level. It shall also create a conducive environment for youths to access, demand, protect and promote their SRH-Rights. This comes after realizing that a person’s environment can affect their experience and expression of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Community Youth Development Trust believe for the Ministry of Health and Child welfare to achieve aims set out in the National Development Strategy 1, there is need for the ministry to ensure that there is total enjoyment of SRHR by everyone particularly the marginalized youths.
We therefore call for:
- Enactment of youth friendly sexual and reproductive health policies from local to national level
- Provide adolescents and the youths with evidence based comprehensive sexuality education as a way of preventing unwanted pregnancies and prevent the spread of sexual transmitted infections and foster gender equality
- Strong commitment to advancing universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights as foundation to achieving sustainable and inclusive development
- That the government come to realize that investing in sustainable policy framework on SRHR saves lives and enables women and youths to participate equally in public life
- We implore the government and the ministry of health to ensure wide youth consultations during formulation of national SRHR strategy so as to inform youth friendly service provision
- Local authorities to develop internal policies that guide internal planning on how to encourage provision of services that promote holistic access and utilization of SRHR services in local clinics.
- Government to consider developing emergency policy that guide and promote access to SRHR services by youth and adolescents amidst COVID 19 pandemic or any emergencies as a way of prioritizing the essential health need
- Youths to be involved in the planning and implementation of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) interventions if Zimbabwe for the processes to be inclusive