The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation started funding the Regional Programme implemented in eight countries in Southern Africa in 2014 through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Head of Domain on HIV and AIDS for the Southern Africa Regional Programme Nadia Ottiger explained that Switzerland strongly supports programmes on youths and adolescents on issues of sexual reproductive health (SRH) to help them make informed choices.
She said the visit to Dedza and Mchinji districts gave the delegation chance to confirm that things are happening on the ground in terms of knowledge and support going to youths at all levels.
“I am really impressed being here and having seen this performance of young people in this village. A strong involvement and participation of young people which I really think is a strength of this programme and young people themselves involved in designing the programme” said Ottiger.
She noted that although information alone is not enough in addressing young people’s needs, it is an important and necessary step.
“Of course what is being done here with such a programme will create demand for services so you have to work from different angles and different levels. These kinds of interventions have to go along with strengthening the service provision so that you do not only create demand but you are able to satisfy the demand” stressed Ottiger.
Among other objectives the Project aims at empowering young people in reducing HIV and AIDS, unsafe abortions, avoiding early and unwanted pregnancies, and early marriages.
A 19 year old mom Luwiza Lewis, who dropped out of school at a tender age of 15 whilst in form one is one of the youths who spoke highly on the benefits of the programme in Dedza.
Lewis testified that getting pregnant while young doesn’t mean the end of one’s education opportunities and advised her fellow girls that education remains the best option.
She regrets the experience explaining that she did it out of peer pressure.
“I found myself pregnant due to peer pressure. I was at an experimenting stage and my parents were too poor to provide even the most basic of needs. I was hence forced to drop out of school and this is the time I found that I was pregnant” Lewis recalled.
Lewis whose child is four years old is now back in school in form three at Bembeke Community Day Secondary School in Dedza.
Implemented by UNFPA with partners like Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), and Ministries of Youth, Health, and Education, the Project has supported the procurement and distribution of recreation materials and refurbishment of youth friendly health services in the six districts of Nkhatabay, Dedza, Mchinji, Mangochi, Chiradzulu and Chikwawa.
The materials attract young people to patronize the centres and access SRH services. For adolescent girls, access to SRH services assists them to stay in school and realize their right to education.