LESOTHO, Berea – It is normal day at Kolojane Health Centre in Berea and sitting on the chairs queueing to access health services are more youths this warm sunny Thursday.
Majority of them indicate that they are here to access family planning services which they reveal they are smoothly accessing them together with the information they need, in order to make choices about their sexual lives and their futures.
Towards the attainment of the 2030 agenda of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, two are relevant in this case: SDG 3, improve the health and well-being for all at all ages and SDG 5, achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
An interview with an 18-year-old girl (names protected) from Thaba Lesoba village who was queueing for health services revealed that she had come to access her preferred family planning method named depo. She said she started using it last year (2022) and she has nothing but good things to say about it as she has never had any challenge with it.
“Many of the young people around this area have no fear of coming to access contraceptives, there is neither judgement nor stigma. We are all given options and information on HIV and AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI),’’ she expressed.
“The only challenge we encounter in our quest to access health services is of walking long distances to the clinic. It takes about 2 hours to walk from my village to this health facility. There is public transport but it is not reliable as it serves a small population and due to the dilapidated roads, it is only accessible during the certain periods,” this 18-year-old added.
A 29-year-old woman from Ha Nkoebe said she also uses depo and has never had any complications while using it. She is a single parent to a 6-year-old baby boy whom she had at age 24.
“I urge other young girls to use family planning methods so that they do not have to go through what I did as I fell pregnant at 24. I knew about contraceptives then; I had heard about them and I didn’t use them because I didn’t think I could fall pregnant. I lacked knowledge,” she emphasized.
“The biggest challenge facing the youth is unemployment. In our area, majority of young girls date older men commonly known as sugar daddies because they give them money and the girls are either poor or unemployed.”
Another 34-year-old woman from Ha Letsoela applauded the services offered at the facility especially family planning services. She said she uses loop, which was inserted 9 years ago after she gave birth to her second baby.
She urged women and young girls to come access family planning methods at the facility as they are offered free of charge. She stressed that the women should access these services and information to avoid unwanted pregnancies, early and unintended pregnancies and abortions.
Towards ensuring that the youth are well informed about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Bailor Youth Mentor Hilda Lesaoana who is based at Matlameng, Leribe, said they provide HIV/AIDS testing services and provide sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention information and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education and services to the youth. They also distribute condoms and organize community gatherings.
Lesaoana indicated that child marriage and early and unintended pregnancies are a challenge in that area.
Chief of Kolojane Ha Seisa, Chief Seisa Seisa disclosed that during the public gatherings, he gives village health workers a slot to talk about contraceptives and to dish out other health information to the community members.
Chief Seisa said the community is well informed about child marriage and human trafficking as his office capacitates them often.
He said the challenges facing their area entail: unemployment, low water supply and bearing the brunt of climate change. He made an example of the students grappling with a donga that hinders them from crossing over to school. This donga was a result of the heavy rains experienced earlier in the country. “These students either miss school or have to use a long roundabout route to school.”
These interviews were conducted when journalists publishing stories on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) were taken on a field trip supported by the United Nations Population Fund Lesotho (UNFPA) to conduct interviews in hard to reach clinics so as to write informed stories that highlight the role of midwives in saving the lives of mothers and babies and at the same time encourage young women to access family planning services.
UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency and its mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
UNFPA Lesotho is working to achieve four transformative results which are, Ending Preventable Maternal Deaths, Ending Gender Based Violence and Harmful Practices like Child Marriage, Ending HIV and other transmissible diseases and Ending Unmet Need for Family Planning by:
Ensuring that more women of reproductive age use long-term contraception methods on family planning in Lesotho by 2023.
Supporting Family Planning by ensuring a continuous, reliable supply of quality contraceptives, strengthening national health systems, advocating for policies supportive of family planning, and gathering data to support the impact of the programmes.
Ensuring multi-month dispensation of pills for women that prefer these as their method of choice and also to capacitate village health workers to distribute less skill intensive methods like pills, condoms.