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Change the world

20/02/2024

More than 100 stakeholders from the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole, together with international organisations convened recently at Mandela University’s Indoor Sports Centre for a youth exchange meeting on adolescent’s access to healthcare.

The event focused on youth-friendly services in the Metro and is part of a partnership between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the DOXA Family Care youth programmes, supported by Mandela University’s HIV and AIDS Research Unit, led by Dr Rosemary Kalenga (right).

Stakeholders attending the event included representatives from the Office of the Premier, and the Departments of Health and Social Development.

Dr Kalenga said, “UNICEF reached out because of the University’s footprint in the community through the work done for children born HIV-positive, so they thought the same could be done for other international organisations.  

“This is a significant event because we know we are collaborating in terms of responsible behaviour, knowledge acquisition, and expected change in practices among adolescents that will lead to positive health care”.

Furthermore, “the outcry in healthcare accessibility is notable because it speaks to low accessibility, which then fuels high level of teen pregnancies, abortions – so we are trying to promote accessibility to youth-friendly health care services in our community”.

Dr Lynn Biggs, Irfan Akhtar and Khanyisile Khanyile

These sentiments were reiterated by Dr Lynn Biggs, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law at Mandela University.

“We want to live in communities where pregnancy is wanted, and every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” said Dr Biggs.

The call for protecting the rights of adolescents was echoed by UNICEF representative Irfan Akhtar.

“We are committed to ensuring that every young person has access to information, services, and support to make informed decisions about their sexual reproductive health. Youth participation is recognised as a human right”.

Coated in lively ambience, conversations with teenage girls, young women, and young adults about sexual and reproductive health rights, GBV, and HIV soon ensued.

High school learners also expressed the challenges faced by the youth in accessing healthcare services in a panel discussion.  

A recurring point was the attitude of healthcare workers to young girls who seek contraceptives, as well as the perennial stigma associated with HIV infection.

The dialogue between students and present stakeholders proved fruitful as talks begun about how judgement, stigmatisation, and homophobia can be overcome, as well as the creation of programmes that allow young people to thrive.

The event’s programme director, Khanyisile Khanyile, who runs an NGO called Pregnant with Africa, which deals with gender-based violence and many other issues, summed up the gains of the event.

“The purpose of today was to make adolescents aware that they have a right to access to healthcare institutions that protect them, and the right to say no or yes with their bodies”.

Contact information
Primarashni Gower
Director: Communication & Marketing
Tel: 0415043057
Primarashni.Gower@mandela.ac.za