Notes to broadcasters
This script explores sexual and reproductive health and rights, with a strong focus on young people and their parents. When people have full sexual and reproductive health and rights, they are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and the ability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. The script also covers the right of men and women to be well-informed and to have access to the safe, effective, affordable, acceptable, and legal family planning methods of their choice, along with the right to access appropriate healthcare services.
Malawi’s population is youthful, with 80% of its population below 35 years old and with a median age of 17. This is one of Malawi’s strongest assets, and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy lists youth development and empowerment as one of its nine priorities.
But many young people are struggling with the consequences of unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
With the challenges youth face, including issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, Malawi cannot achieve sustainable development unless they have accurate information.
Most youths openly or privately discuss sex with their peers, but do they share accurate information? If the answer is no, where else can these young people go to access accurate information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights? Can parents be of any help on this topic? How about the custodians of culture and religious leaders?
In collaboration with NGOs, the Malawi government is working to ensure that youth get accurate information about their sexual and reproductive lives and rights. But the efforts of government and other organizations will not yield much fruit if parents’ influence is ignored.
This script discusses some of the challenges youth face regarding their sexual and reproductive health and rights. It also considers the roles that parents, in collaboration with the community, media, and the custodians of religion and culture, can play to address such challenges.
To produce this script on your station, you could use voice actors to play the roles of the interviewees. In this case, be sure to inform your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original interviewees.
You might also use this script to research a similar topic in your area and write your own script. If you choose this strategy, be careful not to say anything that might reinforce stereotypes about gender or sex. As a broadcaster, it’s important that you avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes about women and men, including the “proper” roles that young men and women should play in society and in sexual relationships.
Also, try not to make comments about whether you think something is morally right or wrong. Instead, model for listeners how to respect people with different opinions and experiences than your own. Also, model to your listeners that we should listen to experts about facts and scientific information.
Encourage expert interviewee(s) to focus on their technical knowledge and scientific information since their role is to provide objective expertise. In your questions to interviewees, and in your responses to their answers, help interviewees avoid making moral judgements based in their own opinions or values. You can even discuss this with the interviewee(s) as you prepare them for the interview.
During the interview, you could ask the following questions:
Questions for experts:
- What challenges do youth face with their sexual and reproductive health?
- Can parents help to model changes in attitudes towards sexual and reproductive health? If so, how?
- How can parents help youth understand and exercise their rights to sexual and reproductive health?
- What can be done to narrow or close the communication gap between parents and youth about sexual and reproductive health and rights?
Questions for youth:
- If you are in a youth group, why did you form the group?
- How free are youth to talk about sexual and reproductive health? With other youth? With their parents?
- Do you discuss youth rights to sexual and reproductive health with other youth? With your parents?
Questions for parents:
- Is it important and appropriate for a parent to talk about sexual and reproductive health with their children? Why or why not?
- Is it important and appropriate for parents to talk about an individuals’ right to sexual and reproductive health with their children? Please explain your response.
Duration of the script with intro and outro: 25-30 minutes
I will take you to one of the districts in Malawi where youths are busy with various activities that help to develop their area.
But before we go, let’s hear about some of the challenges that youth face as far as sexual and reproductive health and rights are concerned.
Jacqueline Zambezi Mawanga is the Community Programmes Manager for Maikhanda Trust, an NGO that aims to empower adolescent girls to make decisions regarding their own sexual and reproductive health.
Let me give a broad definition of sexual and reproductive health and rights, or SRHR. Here’s what we can say: Enjoying sexual and reproductive health and rights means that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the ability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. Part of this is the right of men and women to be well-informed and to have access to the safe, effective, affordable, acceptable, and legal family planning methods of their choice, along with the right to access appropriate healthcare services.
It’s also important to note that, when we talk about SRHR, we’re talking about services, but there are also commodities such as condoms that need to be purchased. Youth need to know where they can access condoms.
We discovered that they cannot access these services in some areas. Sometimes they are too far away from health service providers, or the service providers may not even be friendly.
This lack of access and lack of welcoming them pushes young girls away. They may feel shamed and stigmatized for even trying to access the services they need.
Another challenge is lack of parents’ acceptance. Young people look at their parents as their role models, so whatever they say has a great impact in their lives. So, if parents do not accept them accessing these kinds of services, it’s another barrier.
So we need to reach out to parents as well. We need to let them know that it’s important for young people to access the kinds of services that help them prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Most importantly, we need to let them know that these services will improve young people’s overall health and well-being. Services like these help young people make informed decisions, have more control over their futures, and focus on creating the lives they want!
Now, let’s all jump into a vehicle. We are going to Ntchisi district. From the capital city of Malawi in the central region, we will be heading northeast, and it’s a two-hour drive. Ntchisi is a hilly area with cool weather.
We are here, in Mwansangu village, Traditional Authority Malenga.
Welcome to our program, Joseph.
Boys and girls join the group, depending on what activities they like. After participating in activities, we gather and share information on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Maikhanda Trust gives us lectures on how we can take care of ourselves and improve our overall health. We also learn how to avoid early pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and also where we can access contraceptives. We know it’s our right to access contraceptives and to have accurate information about our health.
With what we learn from Maikhanda Trust, we know we can freely discuss these issues with our parents. And because we trust our parents, we believe in the advice they give us. So they are the primary source of that information.
Some of the challenges are that young people often hide sexual issues from parents, thinking that when parents hear them talking about these issues, they will be punished, or that it’s shameful to discuss sexual issues with parents. Those attitudes are the ones we will address in this program.
But when I told my mother everything my friends told me, she was not only surprised but also scared. She told me that having a boyfriend is not a problem, but having unsafe sex could end up in an unwanted pregnancy, and even getting sexually-transmitted infections like HIV.
This scared me. So I opened my ears to hear more. She told me that my education would be disrupted if this happened to me. She advised me that I should by all means abstain from sex, but if I couldn’t, I should insist on using a condom. Later, she advised me to join this group for further guidance on my sexual health. This is when I came to realize that parents can really play an important role in this aspect, too.
I play a parental role to these young stars. I talk to them the way their parents are supposed to do. Some of these youths’ parents do not feel comfortable discussing sexual and reproductive health and rights with their children. But when they come here, I talk with them. We are trying our best to help the parents to be flexible with their children on these issues.
You know, before this group, there were a lot of school dropouts and forced marriages because of unplanned pregnancies. There was no one who gave these youths guidance.
But can a parental voice really cause a meaningful positive impact?
Thokozani Kaledzera is the youth-friendly health services coordinator here in Ntchisi.
Parents need to understand that this is the twenty-first century and most children are exposed to a lot of things through the internet and peers. So they need to put aside their reticence and face the fact that these issues are real.
Poor parental involvement in SRHR issues puts adolescents at higher risk of unwanted pregnancies and other problems, while some cultural and religious beliefs can have the same effect.
Parents also need to realize that talking to their children about sex will not encourage promiscuous behaviour. However, it will help them make informed decisions. Most parents do not have adequate knowledge of these issues, and this can result in negative attitudes. So it’s important to engage parents. For example, we hold community mobilization and awareness meetings where parents and other community members get involved. Parents need to be at the forefront of educating their children on SRHR before they get wrong information from their peers.
One more thing we have come to realize is that many girls are willing to talk to their parents about these issues, but the parents are not willing to talk. And when girls realize that their parents are not willing to open up to them, they are uncomfortable talking to them. Even when girls are sexually abused, it may take a long time for them to disclose this to their parents for fear of being judged or shouted at. Children whose parents are comfortable talking to them about these issues are better able to make good decisions and succeed in life.
We would have loved to stay longer, but time is not on our side, and it’s time to go back to the capital city of Malawi.
You know, when youth have issues, they tend to keep things inside unless the environment is very welcoming. These days, we need to sit down with our children and tell them everything they need to know regarding their sexuality. Then the children will trust us and will be able to ask for more information, and even share some challenges they have faced. In such an environment, even when they make mistakes, the parent will be the first person to know.
Parents should be able to discuss sexual health with their children as they would any other aspect of their health. They should also encourage their children to access sexual and reproductive health services—even when they are not experiencing any problems.
In this program, we looked at how parents can model a change in attitude towards issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights or SRHR, by more openly talking to their children about these issues.
We heard from our guests that parents need to show interest in their children’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and talk to them in a friendly manner. They should not leave the task of talking to them on these issues to someone else. Parents should be a primary source of information for their children. They should also take the initiative to ensure that they receive information through credible sources so it’s up-to-date and accurate.
We also heard that authorities responsible for the media should share information and educate communities on the importance of creating a conducive environment for communication between parents and their children. If we can do this, we can reduce unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections, and improve the overall health and well-being of young people.
We have also heard about organizations in Malawi that help young people learn about their sexual and reproductive health and rights, and access sexual and reproductive health services. The organization discussed in depth today was Maikhanda Trust, and another organization is YouthWave Malawi. Listeners, I encourage you to seek out these services and talk to health centres and youth groups in your community for a referral to more services.
On that note, I am afraid we have come to the end of our program today. Many thanks to Jacqueline Mawanga and Thokozani Kaledzera from Maikhanda Trust, and Joseph Banda, Sarah Kamwaza, and Gladys Robert from the Mwansangu youth club, for contributing to the program.
Till next time, I have been your host, Andrew Mahiyu. Good bye.
Contributed by: Andrew Mahiyu, freelance journalist, broadcaster, and communications consultant at NIVY Productions
Jacqueline Mawanga, Community Programmes Manager at Maikhanda Trust
Thokozani Kaledzera, Youth-Friendly Health Services Coordinator, Mwansangu Youths
Joseph Banda, Sarah Kamwaza, the youth group leader Gladys Robert and parents of the Mwansangu Youth group in Ntchisi District.
Andrew Namakhoma, former Community Development Programs Officer at National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi
Thembi Thadzi, Girl Effect
All interviews were conducted in July 2022 except for Andrew Namakhoma on August 27, 2022.
Reviewed by: Tinatswe Mhaka, Gender Equality and Inclusion Officer, Farm Radio International and Gina Vukojević, Team Lead, Gender Equality and Inclusion, Farm Radio International.
This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada as part of The Innovations in Health, Rights and Development, or iHEARD, project. The project is led by a consortium of: Farm Radio International, CODE, and Marie Stopes International (MSI) and implemented in Malawi by Farm Radio Trust, Women and Children First, Girl Effect, and Viamo.