My Voice Count! Campaign
A unique coalition of a youth serving SRHR organisation (Partners in Sexual Health) and a youth-led organisation (Umunthu Plus) have come together to develop a joint campaign to promote young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services, especially family planning services in 2 Southern African countries, South Africa and Malawi.
Fortunately, Southern African governments have made progressive policy commitments to offer young people universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services. The Maputo Plan of Action operationalises the Continental Policy Framework for SRHR in Africa and the ESA commitments promise Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and adolescent SRH services in 20 Eastern and Southern African countries. In practice, this ambitious policy framework contrasts with slow progress on young people’s SRHR. For example, while teenage pregnancy has always been a cause for concern in South Africa, the past few years have seen a rapid and alarming increase in these statistics. A national study by Barron et al, published in the SA Medical Journal in 2022, showed the rate of pregnancies among girls aged 10-14 had increased by 48.7% from 2017-2021. The latest adolescent pregnancy data from Statistics South Africa shows that 90 037 girls aged 10 to 19 years gave birth from March 2021 to April 2022, across all provinces.
Cases of teenage pregnancies among adolescent girls living along beach and upland communities in Nkhotakota, Malawi continue to be at a peak. In the beach communities, girls indulge in “sex for fish” where they are forced to have unprotected sex with older fishermen in exchange for fish to sustain their homes. According to an assessment by Umunthu Plus, 7 in every 10 girls fall pregnant as early as 14 and 15 years old as they are trying to make ends meet through sex for fish or in search of luxuries from older men. To date, the district has recorded, 1 020 cases of teenage pregnancies. This has led to increased number of school dropouts among the girls which have in turn affected losing gains in the education for girls.
There is no doubt that civil society plays an important role in holding governments accountable for domesticating and implementing these policy commitments and demanding for the respect, protection and fulfilment of these rights, in particular the right to access family planning services.
Hence, the My Voice Count! Campaign. The campaign’s overall objective is to contribute to positive changes in SRHR and CSE policies and laws at national level in South Africa and Malawi. Particularly, the campaign ensures a more effective domestication and monitoring of policies on the prevention and management of learner pregnancy in schools.
Focus area(s) / key issues addressed: Improved access to quality SRHR services in relation to teenage pregnancy in a safe, fair and equitable manner.
Objective(s) of the work:
The project has two specific objectives:
to increase the number of CSOs advocating for access to family planning services, domestication and implementation of SRHR and CSE policies and norms protecting youth rights in South Africa and Malawi.
to enhance decision-makers’ accountability in domesticating and implementing national policies and norms promoting young people’s SRHR in South Africa and Malawi.