By Jairos Saunyama, 26 November 2018, pg 15
Thirteen year old Loice Banda (not her real name) joined other pregnant mothers for an afternoon prayer at Nyanga District Hospital. It is not her bulging tummy that catches the eye, but her youthful look. Banda is one of the many girls in the country’s marginalized areas who are being deprived of knowledge on adolescents and health issues. She is one of the youths who still require knowledge on contraceptive use as well as to handle adolescence sexual reproductive health (ASRH) issues. A few years ago, government hinted on introducing condoms in school, sparking outrage from parents who were of the view that the move would result in the escalation of promiscuity among pupils. Banda mentioned that she doesn’t know of any contraceptive and she never used any. She was impregnated by an older man, who is well known by her family. United Nations Population Fund Zimbabwe country representative Esther Muia said although a number of young girls were now more knowledgeable about sexual health, some of them were still found on the wrong side. Data from the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey shows that only 41,1% of adolescent boys and girls had comprehensive knowledge of HIV. On the other hand, knowledge on methods of contraception is almost ubiquitous with 99,4% of girls aged 15-19 having heard of some methods of contraception. However, this knowledge is not leading to uptake of contraceptive, as only 38,7% of sexually active unmarried girls aged 15-19 were using a contraceptive method, while unmet need for contraception in the age group stood at 39, 6% compared to 10,4 for married women aged 15-19. More than 30 juveniles between 10 to 14 years in Mashonaland East Province were treated of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) since January. According to ZNFPC, in the 15 to 19 age group, 206 boys were affected, while 494 girls were treated of STIs in the same province. Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children programs officer Maxim Murungweni said barriers to accessing contraceptives were the major causes of high rate of teenage pregnancies. He went on to say that the law does not allow children to freely access family planning contraceptives at public institutions without the consent of the parent. Hence, there is need for Zimbabwe to extensively discuss the issue of access to contraceptives for children and come up with the appropriate intervention since it is evident that children are engaged in sexual activities. Although efforts are being made to sensitize the youths on ASHR, there is a wide knowledge gap especially in the marginalized communities of Zimbabwe.