Ahead of the Southern African Regional Students and Youth Consortium (SARSYC) conference in Lilongwe, Malawi slated for the 24th to the 26th of August 2022, our deputy conference coordinator Thembani Khumalo caught up with Botswana based young person Tshegofatso Kgosintwa who is geared up for the conference. The duo discussed about conference expectations, challenges fellow young people face in Botswana regarding their sexual and reproductive health among other issues. In the following conversation, TK refers to Thembani Khumalo.
TK: May you briefly tell us who Tshegofatso Kgosintwa is?
Tshegofatso Kgosintwa: Tshegofatso Kgosintwa is a social activist and a motivational writer whose work is premised on defending women and children’s rights and empowering young people in Botswana. She holds a Diploma in Law with the Midlands State University (MSU) and is currently providing consultancy to a continental cyber firm in Gaborone.
TK: What do you understand about SARSYC conference and how is it to your lifetime goals?
Tshegofatso Kgosintwa: SARSYC conference is the convening of young people from the Southern African region for purposes of reflecting and deliberating on the challenges young people face when they want to access public health and educational services.
This is a very important meeting that brings together young people from different corners of the region to share experiences and ideas on how to tackle the modern challenges. Most importantly, the conference brings to the table public office bearers, policy makers, governments and development partners to hear young people’s stories. One of the objectives of this platform to persuade policy makers and governments to reflect and re-shape policies so that they speak to our interests as the young people.
TK: When did you first hear about it?
Tshegofatso Kgosintwa: I first heard about the SARSYC conference sometime around 2017 when I was pursuing my diploma in law with Gaborone University College of Law under Midlands State University (MSU). But I did not have much of the details until when I started to develop interest because I wanted to understand compelling common interests that bring together young people at regional level. When I discovered that the conference majors on health and educational rights for young people I was amused especially given my background as a human rights defender.
TK: Is this going to be your first time to attend SARSYC conference?
Tshegofatso Kgosintwa: Yes. This is going to be my first time and I can’t wait any longer. The previous editions I could not make it for various reasons. But this time, I am ready.
TK: What are your expectations?
Tshegofatso Kgosintwa: Fireworks of course. Young people have energy. They have the zeal. They are courageous. I would want to see an honest and open discussion where, we, the young people, confront the policies that no longer serve the interests of the young people and the youth. We want to advocate for a thorough revisit to the youth agenda in the Southern Region. We want to see action. Personally, I want to learn from other young people in the region how they are managing health and education issues in their respective countries. I want to learn. I want to share my personal story as well. I think that will be able to motivate and change other young people for the better.
TK: What issues would you want the conference to deliberate on?
Tshegofatso Kgosintwa: I would want the conference to focus on a number of things. Firstly, how the advent of Covdi19 impacted our health and education during and post the pandemic. I understand the pandemic is still with us and how do we navigate this in our bid to access both educational services and public health.
There has been a correlation between education and health especially sexual and reproductive health. I want the conference to look at the best SRH services can be given to young people in the context of varying legal issues. We have age of consent to sex and to marriage varying from one country to the other. How do we come together on such complex issues? What is our common understanding? I believe this will help in formulating advocacy strategies because we will be all standing from one point.
TK: What challenges do young people in Botswana face that relate with other countries in the Southern African region?
Tshegofatso Kgosintwa: Sexual conversations remain a taboo in some African communities. This is a shared problem. Young people cannot openly discuss their sexual life with their guardians and parents. Sexual and reproductive health should not be a reserved subject. Young people may end up turning to harmful practices such as backdoor abortion which may lead to death.
Secondly, child marriages are also a shared phenomenon. In my writings, I refer to this as the most African dilemma. The girl child needs protection. The girl child need to be defended. This alongside teenage pregnancies require comprehensive approach.
The access to SRH services is also a problem. In some countries, young people below the age of consent to sex and marriage are denied the right to access SRH services and tools.
Gender Based Violence (GBV) is also another shared problem that cut across countries.
TK: What is your message to other young people who do not know about the SARSYC conference?
Tshegofatso Kgosintwa: My message to other young people who do not know about SARSYC conference is that, you are missing out. This is a free and open space where we get to meet high level delegation from governments, diplomats, development partners, policy makers, policy influencers and so on. This is great platform for networking and share ideas. We’re on a mission to resolve youth struggles and problems which will have an everlasting generational impact in SADC region! Our descendants in years to come will enjoy proper SRH rights and advancement of youth development because we stood for that!
TK: Thank you very much for your responses it was good talking to you. We look forward to meet you at the conference.