At Matero Reference Health Center in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, dedicated young volunteers staff the youth-friendly corner—a private space where young people come for counseling on sexual and reproductive health topics, including contraception and safe abortion.
The health center serves a low-income community where young people struggle to access sexual and reproductive health care due to stigma, lack of information, and a cultural belief that adults should not talk to young people about sex. Before Ipas began supporting youth-friendly services at the center in 2012, young people who sought abortion services at the main registration desk were often shamed or turned away.
Now special posters across the community (see below) direct young people to visit the health center’s youth-friendly corner, where they can speak with peers who are trained to counsel and refer clients for services as needed. No one is ever judged or turned away. Working to ensure young people can easily access services, Ipas collaborates with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health to support a network of youth-friendly corners throughout Lusaka, as well as in other parts of the country.
“It’s really helping,” says long-time volunteer Martha Liswaniso, age 25. “I’m seeing change. Those young people who never used to have time are now coming to the clinic, have information and are using the services.” Indeed, almost half of all young people referred for sexual and reproductive health services at the Lusaka facilities Ipas supports are now referred by youth-friendly corner volunteers or community volunteers trained as part of this project.
And the many young people who receive counseling and referrals aren’t the only ones benefitting; youth volunteers also report great satisfaction and reward from the hours they invest.
“I have built confidence in myself,” says Judith Musonda, who has served as a youth-friendly corner volunteer for nine years. “I can educate people; I can counsel someone. Those things have changed me and my life a lot.”
Youth-friendly corner volunteers Nelly Nyendwa (left) and Judith Musonda (right) receive training and materials they use in one-on-one counseling sessions.
Matero Reference Health Center’s youth-friendly corner serves a low-income community where young women with unwanted pregnancies are at high risk for resorting to unsafe, clandestine abortions.
“Working with youth is important because they are comfortable interacting with their own age group; they become open and not shy.” – Agness Mfula, youth-friendly corner volunteer
Posters throughout the community advertise the “rights-based care for all young people” available at youth-friendly corners.
“Working with youth is important because if we deny them this service which is safe, we end up losing more of them to unsafe abortion.” – Nurse, midwife, Ipas-trained abortion provider
Youth-friendly corner volunteers receive training and materials from Ipas that they use in one-on-one counseling sessions to inform young people on topics such as how to prevent sexually transmitted infections, how to use contraception, and how to access safe abortion services if facing an unwanted pregnancy.
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