Explore the experiences of adolescent girls in rise youth clubs in preventing child pregnancies and early marriages in Central and Southern Provinces of Zambia

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Kumbwa, Tobby Chibwe
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University of Zambia
Cases of child pregnancies and early marriages have been reported in most parts of Africa including Zambia. Interventions have been implemented in order to address these challenges. These interventions includes the girl child re-entry policy: an educational policy that allows for girls who fall pregnant during their time in school to re-enter or re-enroll after having given birth and the School Health and Nutrition programme to improve the health and nutrition status of the learners; therefore improving on enrolment, retention and learning achievements (MOE, 2006). Some have involved the establishment of youth clubs to discuss matters concerning sexual education, but there is scarce information on the experiences of girls that attend these clubs. In Zambia, RISE a cluster randomized controlled trial was initiated in 2016 with the aim of estimating the effectiveness of economic support, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education (CSRHE) and community dialogue on adolescent childbearing and completion of junior secondary school. As part of the process of evaluation, this study aimed to explore the experiences of adolescent girls participating in the CSRHE. This qualitative descriptive case study was conducted after the intervention packages, including a youth club covering a CSRHE curriculum, had been implemented for one year in order to explore experiences with the RISE youth clubs. Sixteen interviews and eight focus group discussions were conducted with adolescent girls participating the RISE youth clubs in Chibombo, Kabwe, Kapiri- Mposhi, Mazabuka and Mkushi districts of Zambia. Data obtained were analyzed thematically. The study indicated that the girls had challenges accessing SRH knowledge before initiation of the project. From their perspectives, they were shy to discuss SRH issues; they were perceived as disrespectful to elders, used to hang around with boys and lacked knowledge of SRH. However, the CSRHE through the youth clubs had helped the girls gain adequate SRH knowledge and skills. The participants felt that they had become more assertive and confident; they were able to make sound decisions towards their health. They also reported that had developed interest in school and were performing well. However, some parents were not supportive of the project; they had negative sentiments assuming that it was demonic and they still forced their children into early marriages. Some girls still had boyfriends, were pregnant or had children. Some viii participants stated that policies like child re-entry policy had little authority to address the challenges adolescents go through and had loopholes or inconsistencies in the way they operated. The study has brought out important points concerning CSRHE and the operations of the RISE youth clubs. It has been established from the responses of many participants that adolescent girls can learn a lot of skills and knowledge related to SRH. It indicated that the content [CSRHE] and the process facilitation in the youth clubs were conducted adequately. Some parents were still skeptical of the initiative as they perceived it demonic and a waste of time for their children. Key words: Comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health Education, Adolescent girls, child pregnancies and early marriages
Reproductive Health Education , Adolescent pregnancies -- Zambia