Chikwawa — Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA) has trained mother groups from Ngabu and Lundu in Chikwawa on how they can increase uptake of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) among girls.
Speaking at the end of the training on Saturday, COWLHA's Get Up, Speak Out (GUSO) Project Officer, Sekani Tchuwa said the mother groups were permanent structures and that they would continue carrying out activities when the project phases out in December this year.
Tchuwa added that the organization thought of engaging mother groups upon noticing that girls need to access services such as family planning methods.
"The mother groups are the first port of call for the girls. Sometimes the girls are afraid to talk to their parents for obvious reasons," Tchuwa said.
"Throughout the implementation of the GUSO Project, we have done our best to ensure that uptake of SRHR services is increased.
"However, there have been a few cultural barriers that restrict girls from accessing the services," she added.
She further said mother groups were incorporated upon realising the gap that exists between parents and girls and that mother groups work with a number of duty bearers such as chiefs and school committees.
She said there was need for the mothers to continue advocating for girls rights in accessing SRHR services.
"We expect the mother groups to treat the girl children equally so that those in school and those that are out of school should be reached.
"We expect them to do community sensitisation among communities on gender based violence (GBV) as well as girls' access to SRHR. They are watchmen of SRHR issues in terms of GBV or issues of sexual violation of girls' rights in school or outside it," she said.
Chikwawa District Hospital Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) Coordinator, Patrick Baluwa hailed COWLHA for the interventions, saying the hospital was pleased to have mother groups equipped with SRHR information to effectively support the youth in their respective areas.
"The engagement of mother groups is an attempt to expand the program. Much as we have peer educators, support from the mothers would be worthwhile on the basis that they have vast experience and can easily interact with parents.
"We strongly believe that by using mother groups, we are also going to step up efforts to increase SRHR uptake among the youth in the communities," said Baluwa.
One of the participants, Roster Ngulama from Sekeni Primary School in Paramount Chief Lundu said the training was beneficial as they learnt a lot of things including child rights and family planning.
"It is necessary that we have such information readily available. If girls access information on sexual and reproductive health services, they are able to make informed choices," said Ngulama.
COWLHA conducted the training with support from the Netherlands-based AIDSFONDS organisation.