Forum launched to support women students
UKZN’s HIV/AIDS and Wellness Programme recently launched a Women’s Forum for female students to discuss issues and challenges they face.
The Forum, themed Transforming Young Women into Future Leaders, was launched during the Annual Abstinence Walk Campaign held to encourage students to abstain from sexual activity to reduce the pressure of having unprotected sex and thus help to lower the spread of HIV and AIDS and reduce the risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned/unwanted pregnancies.
Findings of a study conducted by the Higher Education HIV and AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) in South African tertiary institutions between 2008 and 2009 found there was a need to empower young women to take charge of their health.
The study also found there were more HIV positive women students than HIV positive male students and suggested there was a need to strengthen behaviour change communication interventions among students to reduce new HIV infections and drug abuse.
Head of the UKZN’s HIV/AIDS and Wellness Programme, Ms Nomonde Magantolo, said: ‘The launch of a Women’s Forum in an institution of higher learning is an additional support mechanism creating solidarity to facilitate a better sharing of knowledge and issues relevant to women across the Institution.’
The objectives of the Forum are to:
- Identify and capture new opportunities for innovation
- Empower young women for intergenerational equity
- Advocate sexual and reproductive health and rights
- Promote gender equality in order to prevent gender based violence
- Address issues surrounding social values and norms
- Highlight issues faced by women and children in different communities to find common solutions .
Among the activities and issues that will be initiated by the Forum are pregnancy awareness campaigns, sugar daddies awareness campaigns, group discussions on campus, residence visits, awareness on services available at the campus health clinics and high school visits.
The objectives of the Abstinence Campaign – themed Abstinence is My Choice – include good academic performance and achievement of future goals; being free from sexual transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy; freedom from psycho-social problems resulting from risky behaviours; making informed choices and good decisions, and to encourage behaviour change in promoting healthy life styles.
‘The Abstinence Walk Campaign is supported by Government departments and NGOs in partnership with UKZN to encourage abstinence as a method for prevention of disease, unwanted pregnancies, STIs as well as HIV infections,’ said Magantolo.
‘The focus on young people is because of their vulnerability to social, physical and psychological abuse. There are challenges facing young people in South Africa and worldwide such as sexually transmitted Infections including HIV. They also face problems of suicide, unplanned pregnancy, as well as alcohol and substance abuse. These contribute to a high rate of morbidity and mortality among young people aged between 14- 24 in schools and institutions of higher learning.’
Peer Educator, Ms Nokubonga Mazibuko, told the audience that abstinence was for everyone and it was a 100% guarantee against getting STIs and getting pregnant.
Other participants in the programme included CAPRISA, DramAidE, Marie Stopes, the Rose Clinic, the Hope Centre, national and provincial government departments, eTthekwini Municipality and other tertiary institutions.