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Day 4: Nino among teenagers

04.11.2022

Teenage pregnancies account for almost 40 percent of pregnancies in Mokhotlong district. They bear a great health risk for both the mother and the children. During his visit to the Adolescence Centre in Mokhotlong, Nino learns why peer education is particularly effective.

Teenage pregnancies account for almost 40 percent of pregnancies in Mokhotlong district. They bear a great health risk for both the mother and the children. Therefore, SolidarMed runs a project that focuses exclusively on adolescents. Each village chooses a young person, a so-called peer educator, with whom the young people can talk at eye level. This peer educator is trained by SolidarMed at the monthly meetings in Mokhotlong at the youth centre.

Sharing knowledge and discussions about reproductive and sexual health issues can happen very effectively among peers. Young people internalise messages or adapt their behaviour better when they are delivered by people of a similar age. From people who share the same concerns. Especially in a socio-cultural context where many topics are taboo, this method shows success.

The meeting at the Adolescence Centre in Mokhotlong begins with a dance - and Nino also joins in the young people's joy of life.

The peer educators educate young people of the same age about issues such as HIV, teenage pregnancy and drug use in the villages.

Nino listens intently to the young people - some of the stories visibly touch him.

SolidarMed Ambassador Nino Schurter can be part of such a monthly meeting on the fourth day. In front of the Adolescence Centre, the young women and men are singing and dancing in a circle. The Swiss is immediately invited to join in. These sequences are very valuable, because dancing together is fun and strengthens motivation: a crucial factor for the young people to take the important issues such as HIV, teenage pregnancies and drug use out into the villages.

After this break, it's time to go to the centre. Each peer educator gets up on stage and tells about the experiences of the last month. One girl tells that it happens again and again that young people have suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, girls who become pregnant unintentionally often see this as the only way out. The peer educators therefore discuss how they can support in these situations. Helping the young people of the same age to develop a healthy self-esteem is just as much a part of their work as informing them about contraceptive options. Especially with such sensitive topics, education by young people is much more effective because the peers are more likely to listen to them than to adults.

Mamonyane Makhetha is the coordinator of this Adolescence Centre and a SolidarMed employee. She explains that the young people receive the money for transport to be able to attend these important meetings. The rich lunch is also part of it. Today, 15 peer educators came, two did not make the trip.

17-year-old Kamohelo Letsoepa tells Nino about her experience as a peer educator.

“At the monthly meetings in the Adolescence Centre, the peer educators can exchange ideas, share experiences and share advice”, explains Mamonyane Makhetha - SolidarMed staff member.

"I am convinced that there should be more Adolescence Centres like this. The need and the value seem to be great,"

Nino Schurter, SolidarMed Goodwill Ambassador.

Kamonelo Letsoepa, a peer educator wants to tell Nino a story. She heard how a 15-year-old girl got money from an older man to come to him. Kamonelo tried to stop her. Her only option was to call in the local police, who then took the girl home. Unfortunately, however, it was already too late and the girl had already been abused. Nevertheless, one does not want to know what would have happened if Kamonelo had not acted so courageously and intervened. Fortunately, the girl neither contracted HIV nor became pregnant. Nino is visibly affected by this tragic story but also impressed by Kamonelo's commitment. 

"I am convinced that there should be more Adolescence Centres like this. The need and the value seem to be great," says Nino in the evening in Maseru. Pauline Grimm, Lesotho Programme Officer, reports that another one will open in Mapolani in early 2023.

"Once again it was good to see how privileged we Swiss are. It is impressive what SolidarMed has achieved in this country and what we hope it can continue to achieve," says Nino in conclusion about the impressions of his visit. Tomorrow, he is already on his way back to the airport in Maseru. SolidarMed is grateful to have an ambassador in Nino who takes the time to visit the projects in order to see for himself and to bring the concerns in rural Africa to the public. 

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