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Girls empowered to take health precautions

By Liapeng Raliengoane

MASERU – Last Saturday saw the AIDS Health Foundation (AHF) join the rest of the world in recognizing young women and girls as they celebrated through fun-filled activities, giving them age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education and distributing sanitary towels.

Speaking at the event, AHF Medical Director Dr. Patrick Kanyema disclosed that the event was in commemoration of International Day of the Girl Child, which is observed on October 11th every year. He indicated that as AHF, they started celebrations last Tuesday until Saturday at the huge event.

Dr. Kanyema highlighted that they are celebrating because women and girls are victims and this day is meant to promote girls’ rights and bring awareness to the challenges they face. He also disclosed that this year’s theme is “Our Rights, Our Future.” He informed young women and girls that if they know their rights, they will stand firm.

This empowerment is towards reaching Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) – gender equality.

AHF Country Program Manager ‘Mapaballo Mile said; “As AHF, we believe an inclusive approach to address children’s challenges and needs is critical. It is important to have alliances with all levels at various levels in order to influence policy change and bring about transformation in areas such as education, with Comprehensive Sexuality Education as the main focus to empower our young leaders.”

From Child and Gender Protection Union (CGPU) Senior Inspector Mojabeng Letšela Mokotjomela revealed to the young girls that commemorating girls does not mean boys are less important but it was discovered that girls’ rights are more violated.

She also informed them about the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 whose purpose is to promote and protect children’s rights and welfare. That as children, they have a right to live, education, clothes and to have their birth registered.

In the meantime, AHF press release states that this year, AHF country teams will hold “Our Rights, Our Future” events around the world to bring girls together through fun, educational, and empowering sessions. Advocates will address menstrual health management, age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, staying in school, avoiding unplanned pregnancy, building self-confidence and many other vital issues for girls and their health.  

It further states that at least 129 million girls worldwide are not attending school, an issue is that exacerbated by inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products and facilities. Covid-19 lockdowns also caused higher rates of gender-based violence while teenage pregnancies skyrocketed during the pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, 6 in 7 new HIV infections among adolescents aged 15-19 years are among girls, and girls and young women aged 15-24 years are twice more likely to be living with HIV than young men.

AHF is the largest global AIDS organization that currently provides medical care and services to over 1.6 million people in 45 countries worldwide.  In 2016, it launched Girls Act program in Africa and it has expanded to 33 countries across Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe.