Cameroon: youths, major actors in the empowerment of sexual reproductive health and rights

Youths face many problems that pertain to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), there is need to empower them in this domain. This has been outlined in several occasions by youths during a round table discussion organized recently at the Camnafaw youth center in Bamenda, North West region of the country. The initiative was piloted by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Africa regional office based in Nairobi-Kenya.

The group of youths gathered alongside the Coordinator of the center and some volunteers have expressed interest in sharing their daily experiences and problems in SRHR. Most of them in the first place know their rights with regard to SRH and have underscored their decisions. The decisions as uttered by two youths are to have a partner with whom to choose a specific modern contraceptive method in order to avoid unwanted pregnancies and to empower other youths through communication for behavioural development and change instilled by the camnafaw Bamenda center. Youths have the duty to educate their peers in the domain of SRH and instigate change of some mal practiced behaviours observed among them. Educative talks, sensitization campaigns and mouth to mouth information organized within the center have boosted many to join the Youth action Movement (YAM) in Bamenda as it has made them to take strides in their own way of living. Kingsley Bekheti just like Martial Kouam, president of the YAM said since their entering into the movement they have acted as the “paire educators” of their friends who faced problems in SRH and as well granted advice to others who had problems during sexual intercourses. Most of the time even, Martial has always granted condoms to his friends who were not aware of the risks faced when undertaking sexual intercourses without protection. The modern contraceptives distributed to them at the center are a means to sensitize their mates in school campuses or in neighborhoods. Sharing his own experience as a youth of 22, Keneh Jespa said he has always face problems of non protected sexual intercourses with girlfriends and this has resulted into unwanted pregnancies. He engaged into early sex and presently has two kids from two different girls. He added that he first sought to abort his first child because he was scared by the time but he was approached by his peer of the YAM who granted him advice and later was motivated to integrate the movement to impact on his sexual behavior. Fru Blaise aged 24, is another youth of the movement who said many of his friends in school, have expressed fear to discuss their squabbles with their parents and other elders and knowing he is part of the YAM they have come towards him with problems such as emotional and psychological depressions before sexual intercourses. According to Blaise, there are situations where youths lack knowledge on preliminaries that are undertaken before a sexual act and the problem of erection faced by young boys which need to be inculcated in schools’ curricula. Claudette Lum aged 23, said as a youth she has been solving problems of her mates by simply advising them on their menstrual cycles and to consult medical specialists. One of her female mate came across a situation where she had discharges from the reproductive organ due to an infection gotten from a public latrine and she just got scared of a pregnancy because she lacked knowledge on arising forms of sexually transmitted diseases. After consulting a doctor she was cured and was now interested in learning on SRH and the YAM.
Discussing with this group of youths just like others interviewed in the streets of Bamenda, there are several problems they face individually with their partners. Kingsley aged 27 outlines the fact he is sexually active and his girlfriend is not. So most of the time when he feels this need and his girlfriend is not he goes in for some physical exercises notably yoga to surpass this desire. Claudette said she faces problem of attaining orgasm. Whenever she wants to reach orgasm that when her partner is tired and that has been causing her pains. The problem has been discussed and they are trying to get a solution to this issue. Keneh on his part said he is equally sexually active and he is trying to adopt a modern contraceptive method due to the fact that he already has two kids. Youths interviewed in the streets have shown low interest on their SRHR and said they face problems of making choices on suitable modern contraceptives methods with their partners. Adamu, 29 has decided to conduct a series of screening tests with his girlfriend because they do not like to use both female and male condoms. Yet, as for unwanted pregnancies he told us that he has opted for pills knowing he likes non protected sex. Clement on his part was afraid to express himself but however told us he is safe from sexually transmitted diseases through the use of condoms.
Apart from the numerous problems related to SRHR outlined by the youths, they have expressed the need to empower and boost their efforts alongside additional “paire educators” who have to be recruited by the center. The need to inject in more funds into their mass campaigns, sensitizations and educative talks was equally discussed with the Coordinator of Camnafaw Bamenda center James Ayuk Achalle. He said they embark on local resource mobilization and by the way the center partners with the Ministry of youth affairs and civic education as well as other youth associations to boost activities of the YAM. The camnafaw Bamenda talent show a great initiative holding from July to August, one of those holidays’ activities set up by the center is an example of joined efforts made to appeal for responsible behaviour during this period. The same move is underway in other centers just like in Yaounde where the locally based YAM and its Coordinator Irene Ekoume have organized a series of round table debates, football and basketball games, mass sensitizations and demonstrations of the use of modern contraceptives in public spaces attracting young girls and boys.


By Elise Kenimbeni

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