Tanaka Adolescent Clinic, a huge milestone towards attaining SRHR equality

ACCESS to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) has been one of the topical issues raised on various platforms. Most Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Zimbabwe have been at forefront of advocating for equal access to SRHR as well as removing the age barriers to accessing services.

By Patricia Mashiri recently in Rushinga

Many young people from marginalised communities struggle to access SRHR services owing to a myriad of factors chief among them being the absence of youth friendly health facilities which offer young people centred services. As a result, numerous negative SRHR outcomes have been realised, these include early unintended pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), high HIV prevalence in young adolescent girls amongst a host of others issues.

To bridge the SRHR gap, Southern Africa HIV & AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS) has established Tanaka Adolescent Clini in 2018 in Rushinga Rural district which has come as a huge breakthrough to the youths in the district. The district has for the past years recorded the highest number of school drop outs, child marriages and teenage pregnancies.

Rushinga has in the past been declared a Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs) hotspot but since the establishment Tanaka in 2018, there has been a decline in the cases. Generally there has been a 13% decrease.

Tanaka’ as the name suggests “we are now okay” shows how the adolescents are appreciating establishment of the clinic and how they were in urgent need of their issues to be addressed.

Speaking during a media tour, Kelvin Wesley Podini, (19) a peer educator at Rushinga Adolescent Clinic expressed gratitude to the SAfAIDS for the establishment of the clinic as it came at the right time.

We are benefiting from Tanaka clinic as we now get services in privacy without interjection from parents. We lacked information but now we carry out awareness campaigns and teach other adolescents out there how SHRH issues are important.

“Most young adults were engaging in unprotected sex because the spots where the condoms were placed were hard to reach. We had a difficult time in trying to access services in the same queues with our parents,” Podini said.

According to Podini the nurse they have been working with since the establishment of the clinic is very confidential and this has been of great advantage to them as they access their SRH services freely without fear that it will get into the ears of their parents. Tanaka came with convenience.

Sexual reproductive health issues are becoming an easy topic in Rushinga where parents can now reach to their children because of the teachings they are getting from the CSOs.

Zimbabwe has rigid social, cultural and religious norms and most times, parents are not kin to disucss SRHR issues with their children.

Gladys Ropafadzo Utete (20) said who is also a young adolescent peer educator in Rushinga said she faced challenges back home with her mother because she thought her child was already sexually active but the Tanaka clinic has helped explain issues better to her mother.

“My mother was against the idea of me coming to join clubs Tanaka is offering. I sat down with her that some children are already sexually active therefore they need assistance like counselling and contraceptives to protect themselves from new HIV/AIDS infections and drop in child marriages.

“I explained to her how these services are safe, accessible and appropriate for the young adults. We also learn life skills through the clubs which are offered by our own clinic.” Utete said.

Statistics show that 22% of adolescent girls between the ages 15-19 in Zimbabwe have begun child bearing and at least 17% have given birth and the remaining 5% estimated to be pregnant.

Speaking to the Health Times on the side-lines of the media tour, Nakai Godfrey Nengomasha, SAfAIDS focal person SRH Rushinga district said they decided to work with Rushinga as the community because the area has high numbers of school drop outs, early unintended pregnancies among other issues.

“We decided to be in Rushinga because it’s one of the areas where child marriages are rampart, low educational levels, poverty, rigid social norms, marginalised of girls, high school dropouts. Also, we have  engaged  traditional and religious leaders in dialogues and engagement meeting so that they can also be sensitized to embrace notions of positive notions around SRH and ending Gender based violence,” Nengomasha said.

Nengomasha added that since they started  the program in Rushinga, there has been  an increase in the number of people getting into school and through the establishment of the clinic, they have witnessed  a change in health seeking behaviour among  young women, girls and boys although it is still low.

SAfAIDS has also established a youth resource centre in the community where youths meet for SRHR information gathering. They also set up Gender based Violence (GBV) response mechanism in four schools. The initiative was adopted by the Ministry of Education in Rushinga district and has been replicated with other partners in 27 other schools.

It has been noted with concern that religious and cultural practices in Zimbabwe has been limiting space for easy access to RHS by providing alternatives that are not scientifically proven.

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