By Byron Mutingwende
Still basking in the glory of winning the coveted “Most Popular Religious Leader Award” by the Achievers Forum Zimbabwe, Sekuru Banda said society should respect and uphold women and girls sexual and reproductive health rights.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Zimbabwe, teenage pregnancy is one of the issues affecting women’s reproductive health and rights issues.
Teenage refers to pregnancies occurring among girls 13 to 19 years at the time the pregnancy ends, while adolescent pregnancy refers to pregnancies occurring among adolescent girls between 15 to 19 years.
Every year in developing countries, 7.3 million girls under the age of 18 give birth; that is 20,000 girls a day. The UNFPA also notes that 95% of the world’s adolescent births occur in developing countries. Nine out of ten of these births occur within a marriage, highlighting the correlation between early child marriage and adolescent pregnancy.
Stastsistics show that 19% of women in developing countries become pregnant by the age of 18. Girls under 15 years of age account for 2 million of the 7.3 million adolescent births each year.
“Religious leaders should uphold and respect women’s SRH rights. As a traditional healer, I deal with thousands of cases of women needing assistance on sexual and reproductive health issues. One issue that the government and other relevant stakeholders including medical doctors, traditional healers, educationists and others should deal with is the issue of menstruation among women and girls.
“As for me, I do a lot in healing women with uncontrolled period pains, ovarian cists, barrenness and other ailments. My appeal is for the government to scrap duty on sanitary pads and make them easily available and affordable to all women and girls who need them,” Sekuru Banda said.
The traditional healer revealed that he abhors gender-based violence and urged the courts to come up with stiffer penalties against offenders.
“Gender-based violence does not only come in the form of physical abuse. Most marriages are punctuated by verbal abuse resulting in psychological torture among spouses. Some of the spouses end up committing suicide. As a traditional healer, I am against male chauvinism where by the men appears to bark the orders without respecting women and girls. Divorce is also a form of mental torture and it is one of my duties to promote blissful marriages. Happy families are a critical ingredient of development within societies,” Sekuru Banda said while inviting couples to approach him for his services.
Zimbabwe has a young population with a third being between the ages of 10-24 years. 12% of the population is comprised of adolescent girls aged 10-19 years.
The proportion of teenagers who have had a live birth rises rapidly with age; 1.8% at age 15 to 40.9% at age 19. Rural teenagers, those with less education and those poorer in society tend to start having children earlier than others; while 63 live births/1000 girls live in urban areas compared to 138 live births/1000 girls live in rural areas.
The Zimbabwe family planning guidelines recognise that health services can only be offered to adolescents above the age of 16, but provides for access to contraception for sexually active adolescents.
“Although the legal age of consent in Zimbabwe is 16 years, all adolescents who are sexually active should be offered a contraceptive method of their choice,”
In 2015, 61.3% of sexually active unmarried girls aged 15-19 years were not using any form of contraception, whilst 9% were using the pill which only protects against pregnancy and not sexually transmitted infections. 18% of girls reported using other methods such as condoms and only 6.5% reported use long acting methods such as implants.