On Saturday 30th of April 2022 The United Nations Association of Tanzania joined hands the Youth of United Nations Association of Tanzania for a thrilling youth symposium with the theme YOUTH ROLES IN SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND ENDING INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE a pre-event towards Tanzania International Model United Nations (TIMUN 2022 ) at the National Museum, Posta. The symposium was attended by 584 young people with the intention of providing information and understanding on sexual reproductive health and rights. To evaluate the challenges and solutions of addressing Intimate partner violence. To raise awareness on the national and International commitments that Tanzania abides with on sexual reproductive health and rights. As well as utilize the space to foster conversations on the importance of youth participation and engagement in policy processes in order to stimulate youth desired change.
The symposium included presentations from guest speakers and a panel discussion. The presentations were from Tausi Hassan, Program analyst – youth development at UNFPA Tanzania and Catherine Fidelis, Program assistant – Education for health and well being at UNESCO Tanzania. Aside from that, there was a panel discussion which was moderated by Ms. Frida Muslimu, Youth Advisory Panel ( YAP ) member at UNFP Tanzania included panelists with rich experience in different components of sexual reproductive health and rights. They were Salha Azizi- Founder of Binti Salha Foundation and SRHR consultant speaking on intimate partner violence, Shedrack Msuya- Founder Salama Foundation and Content Developer at Infolife Tanzania reflecting on age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, Ummilkher Yassin- President TIMUN 2021 and SRHR Advocate articulating friendly sexual reproductive health services to youth, Catherine Madebe- Program Lead Mulika Tanzania revealing the national and International commitments that Tanzania abides with on sexual reproductive health and rights and Lucas Kifyasi- Head of Programs UNA Tanzania expressed on youth participation on policy processes.
In the first presentation Tausi Hassani gave a situational analysis on youth and adolescents sexual health in the country. It showcased important statistics such as teenage pregnancy (age 15-19) is at 27% (8% in ZNZ), HIV prevalence among youth (age 15-24) is at 1.4% and GBV: Adolescent girls experience of sexual violence by age 15 is at 4% while the total percentage of young people (aged 10-24) in the country is at 33% and adolescents aged 10-19 years is at 23%. All these are out of the 2018 NBS projections from the 2012 national census. She went on to put greater emphasis on how accurate SRHR information to adolescents and youth would alleviate the situation. She said, “Education and proper information of sexual reproductive health should be accepted by the society and made accessible to youth”. Furthermore she encouraged youth to seek SRHR education.
Ms. Catherine Fidelis, who was among the guest speakers, conveyed the second presentation on the issues concerning intimate partner violence particularly to higher learning students in Tanzania . She noted that “acts of violence are end results but they actually begin from the mind and in addressing the issue, among other things we need to create interventions that deal with attitude and mindset change”.
An interesting panel discussion proceeded the presentations diving more deeper on the components of SRHR. Mrs. Salha Azizi spoke about the solution to Tanzania’s Intimate Partner Violence problem and its root causes. Poverty and economic dependency are two of the reasons of violence, according to her. “Youths in relationships should keep an open eye to symptoms of violence, such as a dominating partner, and if they are faced with any physical or psychological violence, they should come out and report to the responsible authority,” she strongly advised the young. Followed on the floor was about Shedrack Msuya, he highlighted Tanzania’s comprehensive sexuality education scenario as well as a few challenges. He added that the government and civic society are working to provide sexual education to teenagers and adolescents, but that the process is complicated by ideological differences in cultures and religion. Another important aspect discussed was friendly sexual reproductive health services, Ms. Ummilkher Yassin presented a review of the country’s youth-friendly sexual health-care conditions, stating that “youth sexual health-care services should be welcoming,administered with less judgment by the health care workers, and confidential to allow youths to feel more comfortable accessing them”. She also recommended the youngsters to seek health services regardless of the present challenges but also to participate in local government health meetings for the sake of suggesting ways to make youth health services more pleasant. Ms. Catherine Madebe spoke on the country’s strategic commitments. She went on to say that since 2018, the government and civil society have been working hard to develop a health strategy for youth that addresses concerns such as providing a safe environment for adolescents to access SRHR while also providing guidelines to non-governmental groups providing SRHR education. Last but not least on the panel was Mr. Lucas Kifyasi Focused on youth participation in decision-making in youth health initiatives. He explained, “No one should decide on the youngsters, it is up to youths to be confident enough to utilize local decision making bodies to express their voice on youth’ health agendas, influence policies and budget because that is where national plans begin”.
UNA Tanzania believes that good health and well being is crucial for the prosperity of the lives of young people and sexual health is not to be ignored. It starts with providing access to accurate information that will allow young people to make informed decisions about their sexual health. Henceforth we support the creation of an environment that enables young people to obtain such information like symposiums for youth by the youth.