Majority of the youth in Zambia have limited access to correct and accurate information on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). This situation usually results in high cases of teenage and early pregnancies. Since teenage and unwanted pregnancies are usually undesirable among young people – lead to adolescents seeking unsafe abortions. Adolescent pregnancy has been identified as one of the reasons for girls dropping out of school.
Prior to the end of the first phase of “The Zambia Prevention of Unsafe Abortions” project that the Zambia Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians (ZAGO) has been implementing since 2019 with support from the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), a survey aimed to evaluate the impact of the campaign was conducted.
The evaluation adopted a qualitative approach. It used purposive and convenient sampling with data collected from 98 youths using eight (8) focus group discussions and 18 in-depth interviews – to determine young people’s knowledge, attitude, and behavior about reproductive health before and after the launch of the SafeChoices campaign. Data was collected from young people aged 16 to 32, across seven (7) districts in three (3) provinces of Zambia: Copperbelt, Central and Lusaka Provinces.
ZAGO Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Mr Benedictus Mangala shares the impact the campaign has had in enhancing knowledge on safe abortion services in the country among young people.
Mr Mangala attributes the success of the campaign to the various strategies ZAGO employed, such as sensitization workshops, community dialogue meetings, effective use of social media, word of mouth among young people, radio and television programs – as the means through which messages reached strategic stakeholders countrywide.
Mr Mangala observes that although the youth comprise 25 percent of the population, majority lack vital information on sexual reproductive health, and consequently end up making wrong decisions about their sexual life.
“Many young people become sexually active at an early age, yet lack fundamentally important knowledge and skills. So, this project provided correct information about sexual matters for adolescents to make informed choices and equip them with life-long skills concerning reproductive health,” he explains.
Acknowledging the importance of access to information and healthcare upon which informed decision-making and positive health seeking behaviours are premised, SafeChoices campaign focused on the legal framework and Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) as the basis for knowledge and behavioural change among stakeholders.
“The objectives of the SafeChoices Campaign include among others: raise awareness about the problem of Early Unintended Pregnancies (EUP) and unsafe abortions in the country; create awareness and bring attention on the need to scale up youth-friendly SRHR services for adolescents and young people; and to create opportunities to secure more partnerships for the campaign and for further addressing the issue of EUP and unsafe abortions,” the ZAGO M&E reiterates.
The impact of the SafeChoices campaign, according to Mr Mangala, basing on the results of the evaluation has been huge and overwhelming as it has increased demand for SRHR services including safe abortion among women and adolescents – an achievement ZAGO is proud of.
Mr Mangala further adds, “The positive result is an incentive for ZAGO to escalate sensitisation campaigns across the country. Four major positive changes that have happened [as a result of SafeChoices campaign] include, an increase in the demand for improved access to safe abortion services in health facilities by young people; youths in provinces are able to conduct activities towards advocacy for safe abortion services; the followers on social media SafeChoices campaign have reached thousands and; youth are now able to conduct awareness activities on safe abortion in churches, schools and other public places.”
The SafeChoices campaign was a subset of, “The Zambia Prevention of Unsafe Abortions” project – aimed at enhancing sexual reproductive health and rights of adolescents. During the launch in June 2020, the ZAGO president, Dr Swebby Macha stressed the need for young people to access accurate information and services to enable them make informed SRHR choices and decisions.
“To ensure that reproductive health of adolescents is enhanced, the SafeChoices campaign, primarily target adolescent girls in Zambia, will sensitise the target audience on their social reproductive health and rights; available reproductive health services; and dangers of early pregnancy and unsafe termination [of pregnancy],” emphasized Dr Macha.