Adolescents muse on reproductive health encounters in Zambia

“Currently, many stakeholders are investing a lot in changing attitudes and behaviours rather than addressing the primary drivers of unsafe abortions among adolescent girls. Issues of gender inequality, sexual violence and coercion and poverty are often not given that much attention. Many efforts also fail to recognise the role of men and boys in addressing unsafe abortions among adolescent girls,” explains 22-year-old Robert Mumba, a peer educator and youth rights advocate.

Mumba, who has worked with renowned youth-centred organisations, notes that vulnerable girls are often sexually abused by older men who later abandon them upon realising that they are pregnant.

“My interactions with adolescents who are survivors of unsafe abortions point to the fact that many of them were victims of sexual violence. The majority of them indicated being involved with older men. Having no-one to turn to, most of girls resorted to using unsafe and illegal methods of terminating a pregnancy.”

“There is an urgent need to reach out to men and boys through programmes that help to bring about a sense of responsibility and make them accountable for their actions,” says Mumba.

It is important to note that access to SRH services also entails access to post-abortion care services even for persons that may have had an unsafe abortion. To this end, a medical specialist has called on the public to desist from condemning survivors of induced unsafe abortions but instead encourage them to seek professional help.

“Post-abortion care should be provided to every girl or woman in need of such services. That is not to say one is encouraging young people and women not to take preventive measures. The idea is to ensure that any complications that may come about as a result of the unsafe abortion are averted or managed. Complications from unsafe abortions can cause infertility or other long-term illnesses and death in tragic instances,” explains Zambia Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians Theresa Nkole.

SOURCE: Zambia Daily Mail, by Lillian Banda, 23 May 2017