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We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by  Chido Machawira, Harare Zimbabwe

So, I’ve been in the house for 5 weeks now, and honestly it hasn’t been so bad. As someone who is fairly comfortable being alone, the thought of a few weeks without physically contacting anyone outside of my immediate family wasn’t terrible. Quarantine has been many things for me: Its given me time. So much time to rest and work on myself; which is a gift in itself. Ive been keeping myself busy. Another thing Quarantine taught me was that boredom is a choice, a choice which I’ve seldom found myself taking comfort in. In the first week, I  honed in my cooking skills- from making spring rolls for lunch and apple crumble for dessert, I’ve definitely had a loads of fun in the kitchen. The second week began with my mom dragging me out of bed in the morning for a 4 km walk. This turned into a ritual which takes place every morning. Every. Morning. Not my favourite part of the day- but I’m enjoying spending more time with my mom, especially before I go to University. 
Week 3 found us in the garage; searching for board games and puzzles to entertain ourselves with. We found a 30 seconds and played for hours. This week I wanted to do something productive- so I signed up for an online course. When you sign up for one, you open yourself to a myriad of opportunities as a result of which I’ve been participating in at least one free webinar a week. During Week four, my parents took turns taking my brother and I around the neighbourhood driving- I’ve gotten lots of practice so, the first thing I’m doing once I’m allowed to leave the house is getting my drivers license! 
That brings us to this week, week five. This week I’ve been taking it quite easy- waking up early (no morning runs, thank the pope) and laying in bed. I have become quite aquatinted with Netflix lately- and am managing to finish a season of a show in two days. This skill isn’t very easy to attain; but I’ve mastered it. 
Overall- its been a good five weeks. Could I go on for five more? Lets just assume that if I do; I’ll go to university with a few degrees. One in culinary arts, Literature, and Netflix. Oh- and a six pack. 

We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by Mark Chris Kayizzi, Peer Educator with Reach a Hand Uganda

Many unwritten rules are deeply rooted in Uganda’s diverse culture and these account for what is considered the acceptable code of conduct. Collective approval is very important to many and on several occasions responsible for one’s persona. For many youths, a different social circle always calls for a different representation of personality, some more than others.

Majority of young people’s social life in the Ugandan setting is accounted for in peer circles; much of a young person’s time is spent in a school setting, with a structure of 7, 6 and 3 to 5 years in primary, secondary and post-secondary school respectively. In my time in school; I spent over 75% of day time in this structure. A cycle of class from 8 am to 4:40 pm for primary and secondary level, but it was worthwhile, because I got to spend it with peers. There are a number of changes at post-secondary levels but all in all, almost all youth lifetime is spent in contact with peers.

With limited interaction with parents or older guardians, one may suggest that youth behavior and lifestyle is largely shaped through peer social learning. During this time bonds are created, experiences shared, knowledge and information are transmitted in these small circles of trust, but what happens when these circles/routines are broken? If quickly surveyed very few youths can easily confide in their parents or guardian figures with matters regarding their sexual reproductive health or rights and even matters of life choices in general.

Almost abruptly, many youths have been placed into new routines as a result of the lockdown. This has not only affected our social intimacies, but I have also come to develop a very cordial relationship for my laptop, discovered I can spend countless hours staring a screen as much as I can spend the same time writing something or jogging my mind, for many others their “laptop relationship” may be different by many of the lockdown activities do surely rotate around technology, it may actually hide us from the world more than it connects us to the world and why not, the lock-down as a result of the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19, is a blessing and a curse.

A Curse!

Many parents are “rigid”, true to the norms and usually quick to dismiss young people’s claims to sexual or Reproductive rights to services and most especially to correct and relevant information, some are simply shy to talk while others do not think it is necessary to discuss such matters and would rather stick to conversations on economic development, academic excellence or just the recurring presidential addresses, with no readily available listening ears most youths have and at a verge of a mental breakdown once in a while, picture a young person suffering a urinary tract infection, but is not able to share openly to their one provider of financial support to seek healthcare because it will be thought that the disease is as a result of sexual transmission, I place this at the forefront because the aspects of life and lifestyle presented by Sexual Reproductive health and Rights as a concept of human rights are capable of shaping behavior and building a harmonious relationship between traditional culture and youth culture.

I have personally sat/laydown for countless hours on some days with my mind heavy with nothing but a question “what next?” I am certain many youths in the post-secondary school stage of their lives have had the same run through their minds because it’s an always recurring question in conversation among youth peers. With a dependency ratio in the country being about 103 per 100 working-age adults according to United Nations Population Fund fact sheets on Ugandan youth and high unemployment rates among youth, not because of low qualifications but simply lack opportunities, the lockdown has seen through a significant breakdown in some industries, mainly trade which is one most taken backup plans.

The lockdown has contributed a noteworthy influence communication gap in families despite being closer to each other physically, different mind spaces and priorities exist for the different members of families, for interpersonal communication to work it is vital that parties are discussing and concentrating on the same topic at a time only then can they both listen, however as a young person worries about their graduation timeline, many family heads are worried about the next meal and how they may catch up with the development setbacks, this affects the holistic state of minds in individuals and undermines the role of families in creating support systems

A Blessing!

Physical availability is one of the best ways to mend bonds, learn and unlearn, and for the lockdown, it means a chance to strike a balance between traditional norms and the modern-day youth values, the youth these days require that they make choices on their own and are allowed space for mistake, social norms are much easier to agree on if two different generations understand the importance attached to them by one another, with physical availability, widespread information sources, and sharing, myth-busting mostly in regards to SRHR is much easier, the lockdown hence provides that opportunity in the form of abundance in time.

For me and a couple of friends, this has been a time for self-reflection, goal setting and self-realization, the once full plate of social events, school programs, being socially absorbed is all now replaced with online chats, movie days, or sleep in days. The lockdown has provided an opportunity for us to realize our values and norms, outside the social bubble, we realize what choices we want to make, where we want to be and where we would like to restructure if possible.

Throughout the lockdown, I have appreciated the problem-solving capabilities of the human race, there has been a large victory in technology innovations all to make the digital space our new reality and keep up with work schedules and deadlines, many companies have had the chance through experience to appreciate technology as part of the future and a necessity.

Time in the lockdown and the pandemic has come with very many lessons,  however the main take away as a country is a chance to appreciate that most diseases are preventable and most diseases are preventable through basic proper hygiene and lifestyle choices, we also see the importance of social cooperation in epidemic, pandemic and endemic response, proper containment of the COVID -19 pandemic has involved a large structure, and this same structure can be used in the fight against the main endemic diseases in the country, with collective social efforts and better health systems.

Let us stay safe and follow the health guidelines, for health is the most true wealth.

Around 75 % of the population in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is under the age of 35. Young people in this region remain one of the most vulnerable and affected groups in the areas of HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender inequality.

SADC Member States have made strong commitments to put young people at the centre of their development efforts and strengthen investments in young people’s SRHR within several global, continental and regional frameworks, working towards ending AIDS by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  

It is against this background that UNAIDS, in partnership with the SADC Parliamentary Forum, UNFPA, UNESCO, African Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN) and Restless Development convened a Youth Indaba in October 2019 in South Africa.

“AIDS is still the main cause of death among young women in the SADC region. We need the boldness and courage of young people to walk the last mile. Young people need to know that they are fighting for leaving no one behind,” said Catherine Sozi, Director for the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, during the indaba.

The aim of the indaba was to strengthen capacity and collaboration between young parliamentarians and youth activists to ensure that SRHR, HIV and gender equality are prioritized within national development agendas.

“It is inappropriate and unacceptable to design any strategy, policy or law without the involvement of young people. We cannot do anything that pertains to our future resources without youth involvement,” said the Vice President of SADC Parliamentary Forum (PF), Isaac Mmemo Magagula.

The programme of the Youth Indaba included several interactive sessions on innovative approaches to youth-led accountability, opportunities to share best practices and build networks and partnerships.

The last day of the meeting consisted of an intergenerational dialogue between the young participants and senior Parliamentarians and development partners, focused on placing young people at the centre of development, including supporting meaningful youth engagement and youth-led accountability.

According to SADC, people under the age of 35 are rarely found in formal political leadership positions. Therefore youth-led accountability ensures that young people are engaged and participate in decision-making that affects their lives and exercise accountability over those decisions.

“We commit to work collaboratively as youth researchers, advocates and young MPs for the achievement of set targets and commitments concerning HIV, SRHR, and gender equality for all young people in the SADC region, including being accountable to the constituencies we represent and the young people and communities we serve,” said Rahma Suleiman from AfriYAN in Tanzania, reading from a Joint Youth Commitment on youth-led accountability which was later on presented at the ICPD+25 Summit in Nairobi.  

Participants developed the outcome document referred to as the “Tshwane Declaration on strengthening youth-led accountability in SADC parliaments for delivering on commitments on SRHR, HIV and gender equality”, which was later adopted by the SADC PF’s Plenary Assembly in Namibia in December 2019. The adoption is groundbreaking in that it promotes youth-led accountability with SADC.

By adopting the resolution, the assembly resolved to undertake several actions required to improve young people’s right to health and empowerment using their legislative, oversight and representation mandate. This includes the amendment of laws and policies that limit young people’s freedom of expression, choice and access to integrated HIV and SRHR services, comprehensive sexuality education social protection and harm reduction services for young key populations. – (original story via UNAIDS http://rstesa.unaids.org/

The African Youth and Adolescents Networking on Population and Development (AfriYAN) 2017 General Assembly and capacity building workshop for young people in Eastern and Southern Africa opens in Addis Ababa, Ethopia.

Drawing youth leaders from Eastern and Southern Africa, the General Assembly will run from the 7th to the 9th of November 2017 will usher in a new cohort of young leaders whilst bringing in renewed energy and robust innovation that will guide AfriYAN ESA to the next level of relevance, influence and accountability.

Under the guidance of UNFPA, Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT), UNESCO and other development and implementing partners, the General Assembly aims to foster the development of a better coordinated,managed and structured network that will further the mandate of AfriYAN ESA at regional and national level in the East and Southern Africa region.

[:en]Today marks World AIDS Day. Every year, December 1st is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.

According to UNICEF there were 2.1 million adolescents (10–19 years) living with HIV in 2013, 80% of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, and many of whom still do not know their HIV status.

We believe  that young people deserve adequate information and health services to prevent the spread of HIV. Take a stand today and help us spread the word![:pt]Hoje é marcado o Dia Mundial da SIDA. Todos os anos, o dia 1 de dezembro é dedicado a sensibilizar as pessoas para a pandemia da SIDA causada pela propagação da infeção do VIH.

Segundo a UNICEF havia 2.5 milhões de adolescentes (10-19 anos) a viver com o VIH em 2013, 80% dos quais vivem na África subsaariana, e muitos dos quais ainda não sabem do seu estatuto de portadores de VIH.

Acreditamos que os jovens merecem informações e serviços de saúde adequados para prevenir a propagação do VIH. Manifeste-se hoje e ajude-nos a espalhar a mensagem![:fr]Aujourd’hui est un jour marqué par la Journée Mondiale du Sida. Chaque année, le 1er Décembre est consacré à la sensibilisation à la pandémie du sida causée par la propagation de l’infection au VIH.

Selon l’UNICEF, il y avait 2,1 millions d’adolescents (10-19 ans) atteints du VIH en 2013, dont 80% vivant en Afrique sub-saharienne, et beaucoup d’entre eux ne connaissent toujours pas leur statut de séropositif.

Nous croyons que les jeunes méritent des services adéquats d’information et de santé pour prévenir la propagation du VIH. Prenez position aujourd’hui et aidez- nous à faire passer le message.[:]