Recently the Provincial Health Director of Eastern Province in Zambia announced that a total of 2,859 abortions were recorded last year, and out of that number 1,536 were classified as unsafe abortions. Not so long ago he had equally made the pronouncement that in the first half of 2021, the province had recorded 12,982 teenage pregnancies.
Stuck between shock and heartbreak, I am not sure which emotion is stronger but one thing I know for certain is something has to change. We cannot keep walking around the elephant in the room hoping it will go away, because if the news of how many abortion cases and teenage pregnancies were recorded in Eastern province is anything to go by, then it is clear as a sunny day in October that the elephant is here to stay and demands to be addressed.
Recording such high numbers in one province only begs the question, what is the cumulative total countrywide?
I believe this serves as an indication of the urgency in spreading knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and this I believe should be started from a developing age so as to build in the knowledge that builds and maintains a healthy and safe lifestyle even into adulthood.
In Africa, having conversations concerning sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is considered taboo because of the fear that it would encourage early engagement in sexual activities. Because of this taboo, adolescents are left to learn about SRHR from the bits and pieces available in society but most of this information tends to either be limited or misconceptions, as a result, even in adulthood access to SRHR services is limited.
My boyfriend insists on us having sex without protection...
We need to make conversations on SRHR open for all. I recently had a conversation with a 20-year-old girl that is sexually active and having unprotected sex with her boyfriend;
“I am a young lady still in grade school, but I have a boyfriend, something I know my parents and society would not approve of and my boyfriend insists on us having sex without protection but I would not want to fall pregnant and so I was always at unrest. Therefore, personally, learning on SRHR felt like the light at the end of a dark tunnel. It exposed me to all the available contraceptive methods, their usage, and protection against STIs, pregnancies, and HIV including the free accessibility from either the health facilities.”
Although, she was excited with this newly acquired information she still was afraid of what people in her community would say if she was seen accessing contraceptives at the health facility. Luckily for her, she was able to be attended to by a community-based distributor who has since helped her access long-term contraceptives such depo-provera as well as condoms and HIV testing. But what about others in similar circumstances? afraid to come out and seek guidance for fear of judgment or simply just from a lack of knowledge? In most cases, this scenario ends in either unwanted pregnancies, diseases, or unsafe abortions.
This is just a case in example, and the point I am trying to make is that SRHR needs to become a normal and open conversation for all at every stage of one’s life but especially the developing stages if we are going to curb such high numbers of unsafe abortions, teenage pregnancies, STI's and HIV, complications during pregnancies, etc.
SRHR needs to become a normal and open conversation for all at every stage of one’s life but especially the developing stages.
Information on and access to modern contraception, emergency contraception, menstruation, HIV and STI (sexually transmitted infection) testing and treatment, gynecology, pregnancy testing and services, safe abortion, counseling, gender-based violence, and harmful practices counseling and referral is key to equipping adolescents with the knowledge, confidence, and skills to make autonomous and healthy decisions about their sexuality, bodies, and relationships.
There is a dire need to get down onto the grassroots and extensively educate both young and old, male and female on sexual and reproductive health and rights for a better, healthier, and safer tomorrow.
SRHR FOR ALL!!
Kabuku Chileshe Kabwela is an embodiment of multiple skills, talents, and interests that seamlessly merge to create her life, work, and career. She is a Zambian-based trained communication and PR specialist with an ability to string words together in the art of creative direction and storytelling.
Her hobbies include writing, traveling, thrilling adventure, crafting, and music.