The Church has long advocated saving it for marriage. And many young people have, after solemnly vowing to hold onto it for their wedding night, quickly lost it after a bit of peer pressure.
Abstaining from sexual activity has also been sold under the ABC tenets of HIV Prevention. Abstaining being the 100% guarantee of preventing the spread of the disease and Being Faithful and Correct and Consistent use of Condoms sold to the rest of the population.
Organisations in different parts of the country have launched abstinence support groups that target young people, equipping them with skills that will ensure that they wait for the right time to engage in sexual activity. Youth Alive is one such organisation, under the Roman Catholic Church.
Olebile Galebotswe, Chairman of Youth Alive, says, “Our programme facilitates behavioural change,” he says of the Education for Life programme that was established in 1995 under the Ugandan Diocese. The program that was developed by a nun, Sister Miriam Duggan, is reported to be instrumental in convincing the Ugandan government to endorse abstinence training.
The Botswana Diocese officially opened their Youth Alive office at the beginning of 2000. Galebotswe insists that about a thousand young people have graduated from their programme, which is completed by members signing a commitment form to abstain.
“The programme has different stages that allow young people to explore their own lives, zoning into areas of risky behaviour,” says Galebotswe. After a few stages, Education for Lifers dreams up a New Picture and Alternative Choice and work on the Action Stage that will lead them to the New Picture.
“If supported and encouraged,” said Galebotswe, “the youth can abstain and stop the spread of HIV. As we believe in our organisation that each and everyone has an inherent capacity to change and this change is often denied or not exercised.
“We began by tutoring teenagers over sixteen; we have gotten feedback from some who wished they had been armed with information before wandering aimlessly into sexual relations earlier.
“We now also target 10 to 14 year olds, and have graduated about 200 in our programme,” says Galebotswe.
The Friday night of 4th of July, near Boribamo Clinic in Molepolole, Youth Alive, alongside youth groups from other Christian denominations who honour their (Youth Alive’s) open invitation, will hold a candle-light vigil for abstinence. “The significance of the candle light is that it’s a sign of hope in darkness.”
After holding prayers, the group will march to the Church, which is a kilometre away. One of the reasons for holding the vigil is to forge working relations with similar youth groups to spread the abstinence message far and wide, the Chairman of Youth Alive said.