By:¬† Fema Team
Photo: Gaure Mdee
‚ÄúI need information about birth control,‚Äú Daniel Yusuf*, 24, dressed in school uniform, explained to the doctor at Sinza Dispensary, who received him in the Family Planning Unit. The doctor looked at him and then answered sternly, ‚ÄùFamily planning services and information are only for married couples. If you get information now, can you imagine how you will be by your third year of university?‚Äù The doctor then asked him to leave.
Daniel Yusuf is part of a youth group, which Fema worked with to find out more on the problems they face when going to health clinics to get information and services about family planning. They visited seven different clinics in the Dar es Salaam area. The results were quite interesting.
Daniel and a few of the others were turned away, their right to access family planning information rejected. How can that be? The National Adolescent Reproductive Health Strategy of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare states that adolescents have the right to access information, skills and services, regarding their sexual and reproductive health, even if they are unmarried, even if they are in school uniform.
Unfortunately it is common that the practitioners at clinics are not always sensitive to the needs and rights of youth. In fact , this is a big problem, and one reason why the government decided to underline this right in a policy document.
Youth need this information. Tanzania has a population where 23% of girls aged 15-19 are giving birth to children and where the average age of sexual debut is 17 years. Young mothers are at great risk of complications that come from early pregnancies. Becoming the victim of an unwanted pregnancy can be devastating for girls, changing the course of their lives forever.
Challenging from the start
‚ÄúPeople were staring at me when I was sitting in front of the Family Planning door and some were whispering things to each other while looking at me,‚Äù explained Helen Jane*, 19. Helen went to the dispensary in Tabata ‚ÄòA‚Äô dressed in school uniform.
Lulu Yassin*, 19, who went to a dispensary located in Mburahati to ask for information, says she received judgemental questions from staff and looks from the people around her. She was seated next to a 15 year old pregnant girl, accompanied by her mom.
In almost all cases, the young people who went in, were asked whether they were having sex when they asked for information.
Clothes make a difference
In five of the seven cases, the youth were challenged by staff before receiving the knowledge that they needed.
‚ÄúI was acting, but the truth is, if I really needed the information, and was asked some of those questions, I would have left earlier then I did‚Äù said Shala Wilbrod,* 17. She was bombarded with questions from three people at the Guluka Kwalala dispensary, and they refused to leave the room as she spoke with one of the nurses on duty.
Lulu explained that she was sent from one nurse to another. One of the nurses even told her, ‚Äùyou will not finish school at this rate if you are asking about family planning‚Äù while another nurse said that Lulu was late ( at 1:40 pm) and that she (the nurse) had somewhere else she had to be.¬† ¬†
Habiba Juma*, 19, then went into the clinic after Lulu,¬† not dressed in uniform and was welcomed with few questions.
Why refuse to inform the students?
‚ÄúIf I tell you about the various methods it will destroy you because it will be the beginning of your promiscuous phase,‚Äù the doctor at the Tabata ‚ÄúA‚Äù dispensary with the slogan ‚ÄòKituo Rafiki kwa Vijana‚Äù (youth friendly post) told Helen Jane. The Tabata ‚ÄòA‚Äô Dispensary doctor said she would only give her information once she completed her Form 4 examinations.
Daniel and Habiba went into Segerea dispensary, as a couple of students dressed in uniform willing to learn more about the various health services. They said they were having sex and wanted to protect themselves. After being given the look of judgment, and asked questions, they were instructed to bring a permission slip from their school before they were allowed to receive any kind of details about birth control. They were told they have to be over 18 to have the right to be informed.¬† All youth, even those in-schools, have a right to access family planning information, and it is not correct for the staff to turn them away making judgments about their motivation for visiting.
Youth friendly SRH services you are entitled to:
‚Ä¢¬†¬† ¬†Information and counselling on reproductive health, sexuality and safe sex
‚Ä¢¬†¬† ¬†Testing services
‚Ä¢¬†¬† ¬†Treatment of Sexually transmitted diseases ,
‚Ä¢¬†¬† ¬†Care during pregnancy and child birth
‚Ä¢¬†¬† ¬†Access to contraception including condoms
Any youth from the age of 15 years has the right to access information and services from staff at clinics in confidentiality and with respect.
You need to be responsible. These services and information are not a ticket to just have sex. Go slow, no rush.
Take action ¬†
Go to your local clinic and see what your experiences are in receiving sexual and reproductive health services. Report back to us by sending us your story over sms.
Mobile number 0715 568 111
Or through our Facebook page: Femina HIP
*Names used in the story have been changed.