Non-governmental organisation SAfAids is empowering adolescents and youths to engage in social accountability monitoring of Sexual Reproductive Health [SRH] services through MobiSAfAids, an innovative mobile application.
The organisation is empowering disadvantaged adolescents and youths in rural Hwange District with knowledge and skills on how they can engage health service providers towards enhancing SRH services delivery for young people. This is meant to promote youth participation in SRH services policy transformation conversation.
The regional organisation in partnership with the Sweden (Sida) and Buwalo Matalikilo Trust [BMT] launched a Youth Friendly Corner at Lukosi Hospital in Hwange where they are piloting a Mobile Social Accountability Monitoring [MobiSAfAIDS] Platform for Sexual Reproductive Health services in rural Hwange. The pilot initiative is also being done in Lesotho, Malawi, eSwatini, South Africa and Zambia.
The MobiSAfAids application is available for download on Google Play Store and there is also a desktop version. Users have to register in order to access the application, and once one registers they can interact with a health facility administrator who has been trained to deal with issues being raised via the mobile application. This is being supported under the Regional Transforming Lives Programme.
Percy Ngwerume a Social Accountability Specialist with SAfAids, said their interest is around prevention of early unplanned pregnancy among young women, sexual and gender-based violence and also tackling issues of unsafe abortion.
“We might not have statistics on unsafe abortion, it’s something that is a reality in our communities, it’s happening but we are not talking much about it so we want to say let’s have this conversation so that we can prevent unsafe abortion and unplanned pregnancies,” said Mr Ngwerume.
Mr Ngwerume says a research that they carried out in Hwange District revealed that only seven percent of young people have had an opportunity to engage or interact with service providers. The application will thus provide a safe and anonymous environment for young people to engage with health service providers.
Where service issues warrant policy transformation, young people have been equipped with the skills to analyse data from the application and package this for further policy advocacy.
“Our young people do not really have the confidence to engage health service providers around issues to do with services being provided,” he said.
Anna Mandizha Ncube the executive director for BMT said cases of unsafe abortion, school drop-outs due to teen age pregnancies are a cause of concern in Ward 20 that they chose to work in.
“We are targeting the ages between 10 to 24 years because this is when a lot of abortions are taking place and this is when early sexual debut are happening.
“Some parents in the community are complaining that we are conscietising children on Sexual Reproductive Health issues but the truth of the matter on the ground is children as young as 10 years old are engaging in sexual activities, and the constitution of the country allows them to access information on Sexual Reproductive Health,” said Mrs Ncube.
“Our mobile application (MobiSAfAIDS) will allow the young boys and girls to put across complains or compliments in a private way as compared to suggestion boxes,” said Mrs Ncube.
Hwange District Medical Officer Dr Wisdom Kurauone, speaking on behalf of the Ministry pf Health and Child Care (MoHCC), welcomed the initiative.
“The community does not have access to a lot of things that urban young people are exposed to, we welcome the initiative and we hope to have more youth friendly facilities in Hwange District,” said Dr Kurauone.
BMT supported by SAfAids trained 20 young boys and girls, known as Social Accountability and Monitoring [SAM] champions, in Hwange District. The champions are drawn from seven villages namely Chilanga, Bangale, lubwedile, Dicki, Change, Mpongola and Gamba 1 & 2.
Under the guidance of Buwalo Matalikilo Trust, SAM Champions will act as key deliverers of SRH information to their peers in the community as well as Social Accountability Monitors. They will facilitate engagement with service providers and policy makers to advocate for policy transformation in SRH service delivery based on evidence generated through the MobiSAfAIDS.
Under objective 3, the regional transforming lives programme aims at strengthening the capacity of regional youth organizations and networks in social accountability monitoring of the delivery of Youth-friendly SRH Information and Services, in southern Africa, by 2021. Critical to attaining this objective is to sensitize young people on their SRHR and develop skills and commitment to seek accountability from the state on the delivery of SRH services.
Through a telephone interview Mr Musa Hove, the SAfAids Country Representative for Zimbabwe, thanked Sweden for its generous funding towards the implementation of such an important programme and also expressed his gratitude towards the MoHCC for support and participation during the launch.