Statement on the occasion of the 2021 International Youth Day
The Students and Youth Working on Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) joins the international community in commemorating International Youth Day. The 21st edition of the International Youth Day celebrations is being held across the globe under difficult circumstances brought about by the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s theme, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health,” is a reminder that humankind ought to be innovative in order to sustain itself alongside the environment.
Young people and innovations are bedfellows, and in Zimbabwe the youths continue to conquer adversity on the social and economic front against all odds.
On this day, SAYWHAT extends gratitude to students from across universities who continue to ride on Covid-19 to bring innovations to complement the fight against the pandemic. The virus has claimed 3 991 lives to date and SAYWHAT is saddened by these deaths especially that the figures involve young people. To this end, SAYWHAT implores young people and all stakeholders to always adhere to all the Covid-19 World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols.
SAYWHAT also recognises the International Youth Day as an annual opportunity to renew its commitment to defend its stakeholders on the sexual and reproductive health rights front. SAYWHAT pleads with relevant public health office bearers to open up sexual and reproductive health services to young people to avoid inconveniencies such as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The government’s report released in April 2021, shows that between January and February 2021, nearly 5 000 teenage girls became pregnant while 1,800 entered into early marriages during the same period. This makes a sad reading and SAYWHAT implores the government to take on board young people’s sexual and reproductive rights in its developmental agendas. The organisation believes that sexual and reproductive health rights are key in the run-up to the vision 2030. A nation with healthy youths is guaranteed success and continuity.
The successive media reports on sexual relationships involving minors of late, are very worrying and disturbing. The death of a 14 year-old Memory Machaya in Marange a couple of weeks ago while giving birth, as reported in the media, is an indictment on the religious apostolic sect institution. SAYWHAT recommends government and parliament of Zimbabwe to introduce stricter measures in the upcoming new marriage bill to stop child marriage and violation of young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights.