Students and Youth Working on Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) will be hosting the Southern African Students and Youth Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SARSYC) at the Harare International Conference Centre from the 28th to the 29th of August 2015.
The organisation has been partnered by the National Aids Council (NAC) and Safaids in hosting this inaugural conference that seeks to amplify the voices of youths and students in the Southern African Region on the concerns of their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.
Director of SAYWHAT, Jimmy Wilford, said the organising team was ready to begin the conference and the focus this year is on the challenges faced by young people.
“Our regional delegates have begun arriving and all is set for the conference. We are ready to dialogue on the sexual and reproductive concerns of young people who include students in tertiary institutions,” he said.
Delegates from South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Ghana are expected to be part of the conference.
The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa will be one of the key note speakers at the conference while the
The theme for this conference is ‘Youth SRHR and the Post 2015 Agenda: A time to invest in young people to harness the demographic dividend of Southern Africa’.
According to Mr Wilford the rationale behind this theme is that young people face dire reproductive health challenges.
Mr Wilford said, “According to the Population Reference Bureau (2012), young people in sub Saharan Africa constitute more than one third of the total population.”
“However, despite their demographic significance, they are faced with numerous sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) challenges which are yet to be met with equal resource investment as well as an adequate, commensurate and coordinated response, both in terms of policy and programs”, he added.
He added that young people are unable to protect themselves from HIV and STIs as well as unwanted pregnancies. ThIs jeopardises their future and limits their ability to contribute to the development of their families, communities and nations.
This conference has been set on the premise of advancing the post 2015 developmental agenda considering that Sexual and Reproductive Health goals which were set in the Millenium Development Goals have not been achived.
Indicators show that the unmet needs for family planning averages at 22.7% in Southern Africa and the adolescent birth rate of girls aged between 15-19 was more than 50% in 2009. This is to show that young people are the face of SRH challenges in this region and action plans have to be employed to alleviate this problem.
While the main conference is on the dates stated above, pre-conference activities will also be part of the programme. On the 27th young people from different universities within the region will have a debate and essay competition otherwise known as the Future Leaders Academy. The topic for this year is Can Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) be used as a transformation tool in a democracy? Two female students Tadiwanashe Burukai and Kudzai Mange from the Midlands State University will represent Zimbabwe. Last year, Vimbai Chinembiri from NUST was the county’s representative at the University of Pretoria.
Another event, ‘Web for Life’ will bring young women together from the region to discuss issues surrounding their reproductive health in the region. On the main programme highlights will include good will messages from the International Conference on Aids and STIs (ICASA), Ministers as well as conference tracks.
Tracks for the conference include:
- Exploring challenges and opportunities in providing prevention, Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and positive living services for adolescents and young people living with HIV to improve quality and productivity of life.
- Improving access to contraceptive services targeting adolescent girls and female students aged 10-24 in Southern Africa and an exploration of New Multipurpose Technologies.
- Assessing SRHR related programs and interventions targeting students and youths with different impairments of a physical, sensory and mental nature.
- The role of males in modern day societies of Southern Africa: Opportunities and challenges for sexual and reproductive health programming.
- Too young to wed: Understanding the Policy, Economic and Health Impacts of Child Marriage in the Southern African Region.Participants will be entertained by Jibilika while Youths will have a youth concert on Saturday evening.
All images by SAYWHAT