Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Botswana commits to further action to address sexuality education

Sixteen year old Tikina is a Diagane orphan who witnessed the passing on of his mother following loss of weight, continuous coughs and sporadic swelling of the tummy. He continues to detest the day; for, on top of mourning- which affected his school performance, it has created for him the burden of caring for his siblings as the eldest of his late single mother’s children.

In the same village two young, gorgeous 17-year old girls’ friendship is characterised by short-term excitements of being involved with multi-concurrent sexual partners, alcohol intake and frustrations that go with these; as well as frequent abuse by male partners. Having performed poorly in Junior Certificate examinations the previous year the duo-Nancy and Katlo- source quick cash from providing ‘quickies’ for males. Back-yard abortionists often come to their rescue, when blunders during their ‘games’ upshots with signs of likelihood of unplanned, let alone unwanted motherhood. Katlo becomes victim of the illegal solution…

Meanwhile, Sametsi, a 16-year-old Sekhutlane girl faces hell. As soon as she reached puberty her parents built for her, a smart small hut at the back of the yard. The arrangement attracts South African migratory miners who come to drink at her mother’s shebeen who then develop fanatical feelings for her. Initially she enjoyed the experience, until the ‘pleasures’ became pains as the elderly men began to ‘own’ her. She is already a mother and might have another child in the not too distant future.

On the 7th December 2013, at Cape Town, South Africa, government representatives from the Eastern and Southern African countries committed themselves and signed for bold leadership and coordinated action on education and health services. The goal of the commitment is to bring together countries in the most affected region around a common rights-based commitment to improving the sexual and reproductive health of young people through sexuality education and to support governments, civil society and communities to expand Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and access to health services for young people.

And so, the then Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development Patrick Masimolole signed on his Ministry’s behalf while Dr. Gloria Somolekae, then Assistant Minister, signed on its behalf of the ministry of Health.

Now a project, the East and Southern Africa Ministerial Commitment implementation is jointly coordinated by the Ministries of Education and Health in all the 21 participating countries with technical support from United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Leonard Mutheto, Director at Ministry of Education and Skills Development says of his ministry’s role on the project, “The Ministry of Education and Skills Development alternates with Ministry of Health in coordinating all the programs and/or activities including chairing or providing secretarial services for the High Level Reference Committee or the Technical Working Group.”

The Ministry of Health as a key ministry which is directly responsible for the health service provision in the country is part of the Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern African (ESA), revealed Shenaaz El Halabi, Deputy Permanent Secretary- Preventative Health Services, Ministry of Health.

“UNESCO is one of the UN agencies that conceived this idea to the level where it is now both at regional and country level. It is also a facilitator among the UN agencies and was mandated to lead this process both at regional and country levels. It was instrumental during the regional study, development of the Commitment and the administrative phase of the affirmation of the commitment by Ministers of Health and Education. UNESCO also supports countries to implement the commitment. The next UN agency that somewhat works closely with UNESCO is UNFPA,” said Martin Mosima, UNESCO National Program Officer, HIV/AIDS of his Agency’s role in the initiative.

Each of the stakeholders had both short and long term plans for this initiative.” To ensure effectiveness, impact and accountability, working together within a multi-sectoral and whole government approach, as education and health ministers we affirm our determination to achieve the following targets by the end of 2015: That a good quality CSE curriculum framework is in place and being implemented in each of the 20 countries; Pre and in-service SRH and CSE training for teachers, health and social workers are in place and being implemented in all 20 countries by the end of 2015,” said Mutheto.

He said they also plan to decrease by 50% the number of adolescents and young people who do not have access to youth-friendly Sexual Reproductive Health(SRH) services including HIV that are equitable, accessible, acceptable, appropriate and effective.

In the longer term, he said they aim reaching the following by the end of 2020: Consolidate recent and hard-won gains in the reduction of HIV prevalence in ESA, and push towards eliminating all new HIV infections amongst adolescents and young people aged 10-24; Increase to 95% the number of adolescents and young people, aged 10-24, who demonstrate comprehensive HIV prevention knowledge levels; Reduce early and unintended pregnancies among young people by 75%; Eliminate gender-based violence; Eliminate child marriage; Increase the number of all schools and teacher training institutions that provide CSE to 75%. Other stake holders echoed his sentiments.

El Halabi expressed contentment over progress made so far; “Consultative meetings with different stakeholders such as Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and HIV, Ntlo Ya Dikgosi, and Full Council Meetings in various districts such as Southern, Selibe Phikwe have been done. So far, one training has been done for curriculum developers in June 2014, and future plans include conducting trainings for Guidance and Counselors, PTA and Youth serving Organizations in order to capacitate them to provide CSE to adolescents and young people.”

UNESCO’s Mosima also expressed pleasure for progress made and added that the launch of the ESA initiative in April 2014 is one of the initiative’s notable milestones. Others include, development and adoption of the Terms of Reference for the TWG; Establishment of specific Sub-Committees of CSE, SRH, Gender and Monitoring and Evaluation; Development of implementation plans by each sub-committee contributing to the consolidated plan for the ESA Commitment and submission of an annual report for 2014 to the Regional Secretariat as per requirement.

“The TWG has developed guiding documentation including generic presentation slides which have been used to address various stakeholders for appreciation and ownership of the commitments; Conducted workshops for various stakeholders including private sector, public sector, civic society organizations and young people,” said Mutheto. He added that it is currently finalizing a comprehensive Implementation Plan for discussion and approval by the High Level Reference Committee.

All stake holders said their Cooperation with each other is very cordial and fruitful. The Technical Working Group (TWG) is made up of very active partners who really want to make a change in the lives of young people in Botswana. Meetings are well attended and contributions made.

“The cooperation and excitement has been overwhelming and should the momentum be sustained, there is no doubt potential for great achievements and impact thereof,” said Mutheto.

While Mutheto said it might be too early to say whether beneficiaries of the initiative are aware of their efforts and appreciating it, El Halabi said; “Young people and youth serving organisations such as Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) and Young Love sit in the TWG and are directly involved in the national planning and coordination of the ESA related activities. Therefore, yes young people are aware and do appreciate what both ministries are doing in order to improve the sexual and reproductive health through CSE and Youth friendly Health Services.”

Mutheto said it is evident that Botswana has made a lot of stride in addressing comprehensive sexuality education and providing SRH services, but there is also a lot that needs to be done in terms of ensuring access to youth user friendly services hence the focus of these commitments.

“The other structure that is still yet to be established is the High Level Reference Committee comprising of Ministers of Health and Education, their PSS, Private sector and CSOs Directors. This committee will be overseeing the overall implementation and management of the ESA commitment in Botswana. TWG is working on that since you are aware that these Minsters are new on the field,” said Mosima.

The ESA commitment, said El-Halabi, is fairly at its initial implementation stage and various stakeholders, beyond Ministry of Health and Education & skills Development are involved.
Other organizations that are directly involved include but not limited to the following; Ministry of Local Government- Child Protection, Ministry of Youth-HIV and AIDS, Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs-Gender Affairs Department , Civil Society Organizations-BNYC, BOFWA, Stepping Stones, BCC, BOCAIP, University of Botswana , NACA-Youth Unit ,Development Partners-CDC, Peace Corps, PCI, ACHAP, the United Nations Agencies- UNFPA, UNICEF, UNAIDS, WHO.

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