Ireland's youth affairs minister joins #BeFree conversation

18 Mar 2019 19:30pm
WINDHOEK, 18 MAR (NAMPA) – Ireland’s Minister of Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone joined the First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos at a #BeFree campaign at Immanuel Shifidi Secondary School in Windhoek on Monday.
The event included a panel discussion on the trials the youth face and also aimed to empower them with information to “be the masters of their fortune.”
The panellists included Geingos, Kappone and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Dennia Gayle, along with experts from various backgrounds such as Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) National Coordinator Risto Mushongo and life skills teacher Delphia Jimmy.
Zappone commended Geingos for having interactive sessions with learners and for listening and advising them.
The minister’s one-day visit to Namibia formed part of an annual programme under which Irish ministers travel around the world to celebrate St Patrick's Day, a global celebration of Irish culture. The programme allows Ireland to build stronger relations with partners and arrange future cooperation, as well as shared policy positions.
“You will not see this in Ireland and I will take this initiative home and show everyone,” Zappone said.
The learners got the opportunity to ask the panellists for advice on problems they face. Most of these questions were on bullying, rape and peer counselling.
One learner asked why they are not taught safe sex instead of abstinence in school.
Responding to the question, Mushongo said Namibian society still labels learners who want to have safe sex, which amongst others leads to services that are not youth friendly.
“Kids are off on Friday afternoons and Saturdays but the youth centres which are supposed to educate them, are closed,” he said.
He added that the youth’s interests do not seem important in the services created for young people.
“The young people complain about the free condoms we provide, but instead of making different condoms they waste millions of dollars on condoms which are not used,” Mushongo said.
NAPPA provides services and assistance to people in need of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) care and support.
Much of its work is focused on advocacy, lobbying Government and legislators to ensure that SRH and associated human rights issues are given significant consideration in the country’s health, planning and community policies.
The #BeFree campaign was started by the Office of the First Lady with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS (UNAids) and UNFPA to tackle gender-based violence and teen issues as well as create a narrative around sex, alcohol, drugs and other youth-related issues.