PSZ campaigns for behaviour change

BULAWAYO - Population Services Zimbabwe (PSZi) has rolled out an education programme targeting youths in Matabeleland region about the dangers of indulging in early sexual activities.

The programme is an initiative involving private hospitals, clinics and surgeries under Blue Star Health Network to increase access to reproductive health services to youths.

The project was launched in Bulawayo last month after noting that Matabeleland region had the most unmet need.

Mackson Maphosa, PSZi marketing and communications officer told the Daily News that they were targeting high school and college students.

“It’s a fact that our young people are now exploring their sexuality early, so we are trying to catch them young through what we call edutainment,” Maphosa said.

“We have been producing vouchers and pamphlets we distribute for them to read, but unfortunately we realised that they were ignoring them hence we incorporated entertainment as part of the project which has allowed us to attract, interact and engage them.”

The programme targets those in the 15 and 25 years age range.

Last weekend PSZi held its first programme at Hillside Teachers College and Amakhosi Cultural Centre where students were taught about family planning, use of condoms and alternative long-term services like the use of the loop for double protection.

Maphosa however, said since it was a pilot project, his organisation was yet to measure how effective the project is in influencing behaviour change.

As a way of ensuring the message is spread out to the youths, PSZi has partnered with various stakeholders that deal directly with the youths such as youth clubs both owned by government and city council, and a youth organisation Say What.

“To date we have trained a maximum of 20 clinics in Bulawayo for them to be youth friendly and centered. What we noticed is that most of these doctors are not exactly accommodative when it comes to youths so, we have facilitated for that,” he said.

Maphosa said they were working with 60 health facilities throughout the country.

“The gospel we have preached to them is that sex is real. It is not only a physical thing. We avoid talking about the mechanics. It is also an emotional activity that has risks. But mostly we are selling abstinence.

“We also emphasise that the future depends on the choices they make today hence our catchphrase ‘Choices Change Lives.’ We are saying youths should guard their future diligently. Life is priceless,” explained Maphosa.

He also appealed to schools to consider the importance of reproductive health-tutoring programmes in their curricular.

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