In my quest to be a social media warrior with a cause, I took on my very first live tweeting gig. This was something new and exciting for me because I rarely ever tweet about the serious things, I’m a quirky boi 😉, but life demands that we occasionally step outside of our comfort zones if growth is to occur. I always tell my friends “I will grow up one day.” so here’s step one, I took on the challenge to live tweet from the 3rd Annual Tikambe National Youth Dialogue.
Now Tikambe, for those of us that need enlightenment before I proceed, is a youth program established to encouraged open conversation on youth based issues and policies. This includes influencing youth policies and encouraging involvement of the government in various youth related matters. If you want to find out more, check THIS, tell ’em Luke sent you 😌
Anyway, back to me and my road to better adulting. This year’s theme was “SRHR for all” (SRHR = Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights). I was particularly interested in this conversation because rarely do we see Zambians in open dialogue on sex related issues. The average Zambian kid doesn’t get the talk about the birds and the bees. This could be for cultural reasons or the fact that we are considered a Christian nation, so we mostly turn a blind eye to these issues, but that is a conversation for another day. At some stage in your life you learn about sex. This is bound to happen either in Science class at school, through friends or online. I was interested to see what this generation’s crop of youngsters knows about SRHR and where they learn this stuff from.
Friday, 25th November and I made my way to the New Government Complex in Lusaka’s CBD. I was ready for a long day of keyboard war, spreading knowledge on all the sex and reproduction things. My phone was charged, fingers flexed and data bundles on deck. As part of media I got to sit right in the front, this was pretty dope. The event was set to start at 8:00 AM, but in true Zambian fashion (insert weather, transport, logistics and all the other excuses we usually give here) it started shortly after 09:00 AM.
Tikambe’s own, Emmanuel Mulenga (Project Manager), kicked things off with an opening speech where he encouraged open sharing and learning during the day’s events. The masters of ceremony engaged the audience of young people, mostly eager secondary school students, in a question and answer session. They asked mostly questions about youth policies and received a band of answers from the audience. One policy I learnt about during this session is the re entry policy: this particular policy allows for a girl that falls pregnant to re enter school after a year, a maternity leave of sorts. But wait, there is a plot twist; the boy responsible for the young girl’s pregnancy gets a paternity leave for the same amount of time. This made many a young lady in the audience smile, because equality. That’s just some knowledge to throw at your High School kids WHEN you give them the talk.
After gaining some knowledge it was time to be entertained. You know, work hard play hard.
We were given a snippet of Zambia’s upcoming talent from the secondary school kids in attendance. One of the performances that stood out for me was by a guy called BlessCo (sp) who hails all the way from Kasama. He was lip synching (sidebar: Zambians are the ultimate winners of Lip Sync Battle, after Britney Spears) but his song and energy had his peers standing up out of their seats and dabbing in all corners of the room.
Another piece that stuck with me was a poem by three young girls from Matero Girls School called “Lost Generation”. Although this particular one was not for you if you are of the woke persuasion because of a few “problematic” statements, it did highlight lots of issues that young people face. From early child marriages, child abuse to abortion…”I am sick, I must speak, this is freak, this is fake , I must confess.” went the catchy hook as they highlighted these issues with all the vigor they could master.
Finally, the moment we were waiting for, The Minister of Youth & Sport (Mr. Moses Mawere) graced us with his honorable presence. The audience was asked to rise and the national anthem was sang, signifying that we were about to get down to business. Honorable Mawere gave his keynote address and spoke about how comprehensive sexual education would help reduce the number of unplanned teen pregnancies in Zambia. He stated how government and stakeholders alone can’t reach all youth, hence it is important that initiatives like Tikambe are sponsored by shareholders and finally he called on more of these stakeholders to partner with the government to contribute to reduction of teen pregnancy, child marriage and STIs.
Two youth representatives then presented Hon. Mawere with The Position Paper. The Position Paper’s objectives are listed as follows:
– To encourage communities to participate in the development process.
– To encourage mutual dialogue for communities, young people and their leaders.
– To encourage mutual dialogue for communities, young people & their leaders.
– To encourage young people to engage with their civic leaders in critical and constructive dialogue & debates on matters affecting them.
– To provide evidence and supplement government efforts in monitoring and tracking of youth policies to take action.
After this we were treated to a short screening of Tikambe outputs. This short documentary highlighted how Tikambe is changing lives all over the country by encouraging youth to visit health centers and openly discuss SRHR. Tikambe radio and TV shows are a powerful medium for youth to ask the right questions and learn more on SRHR. We learnt of community initiatives, such a Community Health Day that was held in Idah’s community. Idah is a Tikambe volunteer that sang the initiative’s praises.
We were then treated to a debate. The motion? An easy guess: “Peer Pressure is responsible for teen pregnancy and STI’s.”
Proposing were the dynamic team from KYFC (Kanyama Youth Friendly Centre) and Opposing this motion were a vibrant team from PPAZ (Plan Parenthood Association of Zambia). I love debates, I love that sometimes in a debate you have to argue for/against something you don’t personally agree with to convince the audience and adjudicators you are right. These kids brought the fire as debater after debater came forward, observed all protocol and propounded point after point, with evidence from research in tow.
The consistent argument from the proposers was that youth are bound to group think and tend to want to conform for fear of being alone, and so it was agreed by them and the research they carried out that indeed peer pressure was a cause of the aforementioned vices. The opposers sought to highlight choice and how no one is ever directly forced into sexual acts, it comes down to a decision made by the individual. In the end a winner could not be named as the ‘applaudometer’ by the audience showed no clear winner.
After an hour long tea break, we resumed with an afternoon Question and Answer session with Ms Zimba (a midwife) and Ms Kaonga of Kabwata clinic. It was interesting to note how many questions were asked “for a friend” with regard to contraceptives. Many girls had concerns with the effects of contraceptives and where to get them. Ms Zimba spoke on youth friendly corners in most community clinics where these contraceptives and SRHR information can be given without the condescending attitude that most of these girls claimed to have encountered. Ms Kaonga went on to explain that effects of contraceptives vary depending on body type but they rarely affect a woman’s uterus.
Following a question on what advice the ladies on the panel would give a teenage girl considering abortion, Ms Zimba stated how there are abortion friendly clinics where girls can get safe abortions as long as all legal paths are followed. I bet you didn’t know this, I was stunned as well.
With our newly found enlightenment, a member of the audience who was a Youth Rep from EGPAF was asked to give a Vote of Thanks as the 3rd Annual Tikambe Youth National Dialogue came to a close.
“It has been a very fruitful event,” he said, “thank you to everyone that came through. Let us continue with the good work”.
It really was an eye opening experience, I learnt so much and hope to be present in the coming years as the initiative grows.
If you are interested in learning more about Tikambe, follow the movement on Social Media and join the conversation;
Facebook: Tikambe Zambia.
#Tikambe #Natulande #LetsTalk