Zimbabwe Adolescent Health and Well-being Symposium becomes of age

By Michael Gwarisa

Adolescents and young people from various parts of Zimbabwe convened at Manna Safari Lodge in Harare to deliberate on various issues of young people’s health and well-being.

Some of the key topics that were covered include improving access to adolescent-friendly health services, addressing mental health and wellbeing, promoting sexual and reproductive health education and supporting adolescent empowerment and development

The event was co-created and co-convened by Young People, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), and My Age Zimbabwe with support from UNESCO Zimbabwe, SRHR Africa Trust, Population Services Zimbabwe, REPSSI, and Plan International among others, the symposium brings together stakeholders from various sectors, including healthcare, education, and government, to discuss the health and wellbeing of adolescents in Zimbabwe.

Speaking on behalf of health minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora, Dr Lucia Gondongwe, deputy director of reproductive health at the Ministry of Health and Child Care said the Symposium had matured.

Let me start by saying I am happy that this year, this symposium has a majority representation of adolescents and young people compared to last year when we had more adults than the young people themselves,” said Dr Gondongwe.

She added that the government was working to create a conducive environment where young people can flourish economically, mentally, physically and socially.

“My ministry continues to acknowledge the significant challenges our young people face from mental health struggles to barriers to education and economic opportunities. We also celebrate the progress our government has made in developing comprehensive policies and programs to address these issues.”

She said Zimbabwe is still grappling with challenges affecting young people the most. Available literature shows that adolescents in Zimbabwe face various challenges including high rates of unplanned pregnancies, early marriages and childbearing, high maternal mortality, high HIV and STI prevalence, Gender Based Violence (GBV) among others.

“Specifically according to the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, Household Survey (MICS), they noted the following. Adolescent boys have a higher school attendance rate in rural areas than girls and attendance for girls is slightly higher for girls than boys in urban areas,” added Dr Gondongwe.

The MICS report also noted that there was a decline in adolescent pregnancies from 120 per 1000 live births in 2014 to 108 in 2019. 22% of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years have reported being excluded from activities such as social activities, school or work due to their last menstrual in the 12 months preceding the report.

Onward Gibson Chironda, the Executive Director at My Age Zimbabwe said the symposium was a safe space for young people to deliberate and chart a positive trajectory concerning their health.

“We are coming together to ensure that our leaders are committed to making positive changes that will benefit us and that they’re held accountable for keeping their promises.

We want to see concrete plans, commitments, and resources being put into action so that we can all live healthy, happy lives. By coming together with thousands around the world, as part of the Global Forum, and the 1.8 billion Young People for Change campaign worldwide, we can make sure that youth voices are heard, and that we’re making a real impact,” said Chironda.

The symposium event is one of more than a 100 national events that have been taking place across the world, bringing together youth and adolescents, advocates, and global decision-makers, culminating in the world’s biggest global virtual event for adolescents: The Global Forum for Adolescents .This free digital event united the voices of 1 million young people to rally for new policies, more investment, and greater accountability for action.

Communicating to the world what young people really want through the 1.8 billion Young People for Change campaign. The aim is to secure political and financial commitments toward improved adolescent health and well-being.

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