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Mar 18
Say NO to blessers and YES to education - Empowering young girls and boys in uThukela

By: Joyce Buthelezi (Area Co-ordinator: uThukela) and Lunga Memela (Communications Engagement Lead)

Young girls engaging in HIV and pregnancy prevention discussions at the event.

The Health Systems Trust (HST) recently supported a Pregnancy Prevention Dialogue that was held in KwaZulu-Natal's Okhahlamba sub-district in uThukela District as part of the province's ongoing initiative to reassure young girls that completing their high school education will not only enhance their opportunity to grow into successful career women, but also protect them from falling victim to the prevalent social ills of dropping out from school, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV transmission and exposure to other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

One of the biggest challenges facing the community is the socio-economic tragedy of transactional sex between young girls and older men (who are often referred to as "blessers") because of the flashy lifestyles they present in order to lure these young girls to sleep with them. This perpetuates the province's souring rates of teenage pregnancy, depression and HIV transmission – inevitably depriving young girls from what is set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: (1) no poverty; (2) zero hunger; (3) good health and well-being; (4) quality education [ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all]; and (5) gender equity [achieve gender equality and empower all women and girl].

The Pregnancy Prevention Dialogue was attended by young girls from Ntathakusa, Tholithemba and Mhlwazini High Schools, who were reminded that South Africa remains the epicentre of HIV globally, with KwaZulu-Natal still holding the highest HIV/AIDS statistics in comparison to the nine provinces. The latest factsheets by UNAIDS highlight that HIV prevalence is still significantly higher amongst women aged 15 to 49, therefore protecting young girls from risk is essential.

HST's District Community Liaison Co-ordinator (DCLC) in uThukela District, Joyce Buthelezi (JPN)

HST's District Community Liaison Coordinator under the South African Sustainable Response to HIV/AIDS and TB (SA SURE) Project in uThukela District, Joyce Buthelezi said: "The Pregnancy Prevention Dialogue was a prelude to a provincial summit which is being organised by [the] Department of Social Development, and to be held in April 2022."

The program was directed by Bishop Bhekisisa Mvelase who conveyed a message of support to girls and boys present, encouraging them to stand up against peer pressure and other social ills that may ruin their future, and also so persevere against all odds.

The keynote address was delivered by Councillor Mzondeni Dlamini on behalf of the Okhahlamba Local Municipality Mayor. The take home message was that the youth indeed has a bright future ahead, but it is the individual's responsibility to shape his or her future for positive outcomes.

The learners said they were not aware of how much pain their poor decision-making was causing their parents. They said that they are grateful for their parents' and teachers' unyielding support, promising to make careful decisions going forward. 


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