The Right By Her campaign works with a group of champions including African young men and women, First Ladies, parliamentarians, journalists, feminists and religious leaders. The champions raise awareness in their circles of influence and push for increased funding for implementation of policies on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights in Africa.
My name is Moses Chimfewembe and I am a journalist from Zambia working for the Zambia Times newspaper. I am a Right By Her champion and a health reporter. I like writing about SRHR and family planning. Looking at my country currently, we have the highest numbers of teenage pregnancies in the whole of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
I am inspired as a journalist to make sure I address sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and family planning. The reason that we have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy is because young people do not have access to SRH and family planning services. I feel duty-bound to ensure that young girls are protected from getting pregnant so that their education needs can be achieved and they can become better citizens in the society.
It is not easy for young people to access contraceptives in Zambia because it is a Christian country – some cultural practices do not allow young people to easily access contraceptives and other SRH services. We also have the law on the age of consent that works against young people trying to access contraceptives because the law assumes that everyone consenting to sex is 16 years old, but the reality is that most girls who are affected by teenage pregnancy are younger than that – most are 12 and 13, so that clearly suggests that the problem is much bigger than we think. This is why I feel duty-bound to write stories to enlighten the citizenry on the importance of extending SRH services to young people.
We currently have Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in schools. I think this is a progressive move because CSE has been incorporated in subjects like biology and is now examinable. But there are still challenges: although the teachers have been trained to provide the lessons, the students are just being taught in class and not being referred to the clinics where the services are offered. So, as much as the initiative is good, it is bound to fail because teachers are only providing a basic education, not giving relevant and specific information on how these youths can access the services in various clinics.
CSE is also available for out-of-school youth. On this we have scored positively since we have various stakeholders like PPAZ, an affiliate of IPPFAR, who have engaged peer educators within the community to share SRH information and distribute commodities like condoms. I think CSE is important for the youth only if we address the gaps that currently exist.
When I look at Zambian youth, I see a potential driver of the economy; I see a potential minister; I see a future president of our beloved country. I see people who will take this country forward if the people in leadership right now give them the opportunity to go to school and have a say in national affairs. We cannot leave the youths out of the planning process – we need to involve them to ensure that they can take over from us.
As a champion in the Right By Her campaign, I have refreshed my skills and learned new ones on how to approach sensitive issues as a journalist covering SRH stories. The skills I have gained will be exercised in messaging and proper media advocacy work, which is very delicate. I have also learned how to package and transmit a story to various audiences. I have learned from my colleagues in other African countries because we have different experiences in different countries on how to tackle issues like teenage pregnancies. My desire is to see a reduction in the number of teenage pregnancies and an increase in the number of girls living to achieve their dreams.