As part of the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) Project activities, a one-week training workshop has been organised for 17 community peer educators (Adolescent Health Champions) from the various implementing communities this week. Youth around Polihali catchment area in Mokhotlong, through their health facilities, gathered to take part.
CSE is designed to equip young people with high quality information, as well as knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to make informed choices now and in the future, enhance their independence and self-esteem, and to help them to experience their sexuality and relationships in a positive and pleasurable way. A study of peer education and HIV/AIDS prevention and care projects in 10 countries in Africa revealed that peer education has been an effective strategy in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
In most societies, young people are often said to find it difficult to obtain clear and correct information on issues that concern them such as sex, sexuality, substance use, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and STIs. This happens for many reasons: socio-cultural norms and taboos, economic deprivation and lack of access to information. Many times information is available but it may be given in a manner that is authoritarian, judgmental, or non-adapted to the young people’s values, viewpoints and lifestyle.
LPPA youth officer Lebeoana Kholokholo, said through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) funded project, they are implementing Polihali intervention by engaging youth in information dissemination to their peers to avoid; HIV infections, teenage pregnancy and child marriages. He said peer educators will be equipped with knowledge on reproductive health and related issues to enable them to equally sensitise, educate and create awareness among their peers on reproductive health issues.
“They will also be taught how to make referrals to some designated health centres, when need arises, during the course of their peer education activity,” Kholokholo said. With the support from their funder, UNFPA, which is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, they want to engage men and boys and communities to provide Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) services.
The CSE programme emphasises a rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health, designed to empower young people to take action rather than passively accept what others have decided for them. Peer education is said to be more important for youth reproductive health and HIV prevention programmes for many reasons, including peers that are traditional providers of information to their peers. Young people tend to talk with their peers about most subjects, including sensitive issues such as reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.