By Jeoffrey Mukubi
THE Office of the First Lady’s #BeFree Movement has hosted a panel discussion on HIV/AIDS at the Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) offices, situated at the Yetu Yama Centre in Katutura, where several speakers elaborated on how the disease is destroying the lives of young Namibians.
#BeFree, a collaboration with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA), was inspired by the UNAIDS drive to ensure an AIDS-free generation by 2020, through the START FREE, STAY FREE, AIDS FREE initiative. The #BeFree initiative tackles the recurring issues of sexual assault, transactional sex to obtain material goods, teenage pregnancies and school dropout rates, absenteeism of female learners, due to a lack of sanitary pads, as well as hunger prevention, so learners can concentrate in class.
Also being tackled is the issue of no parental involvement in the schooling of children, as well as poor parenting, in general, and bullying.
During last Thursday’s event, Veronique Theron, who is the Technical Director in the Office of the First Lady, said, “HIV is coming to destroy our young ladies of Namibia, therefore the Office of the First Lady decided to initiate the #BeFree Movement.
“This initiative strives to tackle issues faced by the youth, such as depression, bipolar disease and anxiety. The youth feel that people do not understand their struggles.
“We need to meet the young people where they are, that’s why we had our first (#BeFree) event at Club London last year.”
NAMCOL Director, Herald Murangi, emphasised the importance of psychosocial support for students.
“We are experiencing a lot of challenges and one of those is the lack of psychosocial support,” he said.
“We need to make sure that all stakeholders sign a service agreement, when it comes to psychosocial support.
“Psychosocial support is important, because we will not achieve the results that we seek at examination level,” Murangi said.
The importance of self-leadership was also emphasised.
While HIV remains a focal point, the intention of #BeFree is to create a non-judgemental, inclusive platform, which encourages honest and robust dialogue and information sharing on matters which stand in the way of young people being free of the issues that hold them back.
#BeFree also acts as a bridge builder between those with trauma and those responsible for frontline trauma services.
The intention is to launch #BeFree in all 14 regions of Namibia by the end of 2017.
The success of the #BeFree Movement is rooted in its partnerships with various stakeholders, who assist with psychosocial support, therapeutic intervention, legal advice and representation, medical intervention and also law enforcement.
Risto Mushongo, who represented NAPPA at last Thursday’s panel discussion, said the organisation has various clinics in the regions.
“The services are free, and right now we are partnering with the #BeFree initiative, in order to encourage more young people, aged between 10 and 24, to utilise our services,” Mushongo said.
“The Ministry of Health and Social Services, provides us with the resources, and we provide the young people with the services.
“We provide these services based on information collected through various questionnaires, given to young people”
“Only 57 percent of young men use condoms and 41 percent of young ladies use condoms during sex. How do we engage more young people to start using other various protection measures?” Mushongo quizzed.
According to their website, NAPPA was established in 1996 to complement the government’s efforts in the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services to the people of Namibia.
NAPPA has grown over the years to become the leading national provider of information, education, counselling and services at their clinics.
NAPPA’s youth friendly clinics provide many services to address sexual and reproductive health needs, and their primary target are young people aged between 10 and 24.
The association has branches in eight of Namibia’s 14 regions, and has clinics in three regions – Caprivi, Khomas and Ohangwena.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015