Youth activist Silvia Francisco was stumped by an internal battle she faced – until she joined a programme that empowers people in their sexual and reproductive health. “I live with someone very close to me who has been HIV-positive for many years,” she said.
An activist at the Youth Support Centre in Cazenga, she joined UNFPA’s Safeguard Young People programme, which empowers young people and adolescents to lead healthy lives and make informed decisions.
“Being an activist helped me to help that person, sharing correct information about the disease. Today, the person has accepted to follow all the protocols, so that she can be healthy,” said Ms. Francisco.
“There are still parents who think that talking about sexuality with adolescents and young people is leading them to practice sex.”
Passing on accurate information about sexual and reproductive health is not easy, as she attests to: “As an activist, it has been a constant battle to transmit information about sexuality, because there are still parents who think that talking about sexuality with adolescents and young people is leading them to practice sex. But with our dynamics and methods that we have learned through SYP, we always manage to pass on the message of protection [against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections] and delay teenage courtship,” she said.
Reaching youth out of school
Community-led social mobilization is crucial for reaching out-of-school youth in Angola, as the gender imbalance in the education sector remains a challenge. For instance, 17 per cent of young people have never attended an education institution, with a gender breakdown of 11 per cent for men and 23 per cent for women. Angola also has a widespread HIV epidemic, with a prevalence of 2 per cent in the adult population aged 15 to 49 years – 3 per cent in females and 1 per cent in males.
Angola is home to a very youthful population, with 47 per cent under the age of 15 and 66 per cent under the age of 25. Unemployment rates are high, particularly among young people aged 15 to 34 years (31 per cent) and aged 15 to 24 years (above 35 per cent). GBV also remains a major issue, with about 33 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 experiencing some type of physical or sexual violence.
Reaching their full potential
Despite these challenges, the Safeguard Young People programme (SYP) is making strides in empowering young people and adolescents in Angola to enable them to reach their full potential. SYP addresses their sexual and reproductive health needs and empowers them to lead healthy lives, protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, prevent unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, early marriage, gender-based violence (GBV), and harmful cultural practices.
To date, 90 social mobilizers from youth civil society organizations (CSOs) have been trained with knowledge on sexual and reproductive health, GBV, prevention of STIs and HIV, and life skills, so they can empower the youth. These activists lead community benches in 5 provinces, and their community engagement and peer-to-peer behaviour change activities aim to reach 10,265 youths in 2023.
The programme also aims to promote inclusion, gender equality norms, and protective behaviours, contributing to achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and the realization of reproductive rights for adolescents and youths in five provinces of Angola.
The SYP programme in Angola is supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Embassy of the Netherlands, and aims to reach 60,000 adolescents and youths by 2026. The focus of activities is on the group of adolescents and youth aged 10 to 24 years, with secondary beneficiaries being adult women and men, health professionals, teachers, community and religious leaders.
With continued support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Embassy of the Netherlands, the SYP programme is well positioned to make a lasting impact on the lives of young people in Angola.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNFPA – East and Southern Africa.