25-year-old Bahlakoana Malelu is a volunteer with the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA). LPPA is IPPFAR’s Member Association in Lesotho. In this article, Bahlakoana talks about his experiences as a youth volunteer with LPPA.
“I came to learn about LPPA when I was in high school. This was when an organized group of young people, who informed us they were peer educators from LPPA, regularly came to our school to talk to us about different issues affecting adolescents and young people. The topics they covered included: puberty, adolescence, boy-girl relationships, our bodies and sexuality among other issues. This was in 2010-2011. I remember always being so impressed by how knowledgeable the peer educators were about sexual and reproductive health, and how confident they were in their delivery of messages.
After I completed high school, I visited the LPPA clinic in Maseru called Thakaneng as I wanted to reconnect with these peer educators. I was interested in being a part of the team. At Thakaneng, I got to learn more about the activities of the peer educators under the Youth Action Movement (YAM) program. Convinced that it was a worthwhile venture, I joined YAM. This was in 2014. YAM is the youth arm of IPPF Africa Region’s volunteer body based within the Member Associations (MAs), and which catalyzes youth participation.
Youth-Corners at LPPA Clinics
As a youth peer educator with YAM, we would undertake outreaches in schools, colleges, market places, sports grounds and other places where young people congregate. We would talk to the youth about their sexual reproductive health and share information about the youth corners at LPPA clinics.
The youth corners in LPPA clinics are spaces specially designed for young people, where they can hang out freely with their peers; make friends, discuss trending issues, debate on them and share information on different topics such as sexuality. At these corners you’ll find a selection of fun and engaging games, computers (with access to internet), magazines and a television set among others -all of which we young people like. We are also able to access youth-friendly reproductive health services at LPPA through the youth corners.
Parents Discussing Sex with their Children is Taboo
Before I became a volunteer youth peer educator, my knowledge about sexual reproductive health was quite limited, I must say. As a typical Mosotho man, I never had the chance to discuss issues of sex with my parents. Culturally, parents in Lesotho don’t discuss such topics with their children as it is considered taboo, so children are forced to seek this information from other sources such as their friends or the media. Unfortunately, this information oftentimes is inaccurate and very misleading.
Being a part of YAM helped broaden my knowledge and understanding of sexual and reproductive health. I then purposed to share this information with as many adolescents and young people as possible as I believed this would help them make informed decisions about their sexuality. This is something I continue to do to date.
Interestingly, as YAM, we also reach out to parents and advise them to have candid conversations with their children about sex, as they are important in helping their children get the right information. We encourage parents to be more approachable to their children when it comes to issues of sex, and not sweep them under the carpet. The response from the parents we have talked to has been positive, and this motivates us to keep reaching out to more parents.
My Personal Growth
My engagement as a youth volunteer with LPPA has helped me grow as a young person. My facilitation skills have been enhanced and I am now a Trainer-of-Trainers. This means that I train young peer educators who in turn participate in outreach activities targeting both in-school and out-of-school youth.
My behavior has also changed, in the sense that I am more responsible and cautious about the activities I engage in. This is because, my role as a volunteer with a credible organization like LPPA, a Trainer-of-Trainers, a mentor to young people and a role model to them, I feel motivated to be more accountable both to myself and to other people, especially the youth.
I feel very proud being a youth volunteer with LPPA because I know that I am contributing to change in my community, especially among young people."
Story by Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, Governance and Compliance Officer, IPPF Africa Region.
Learn more about Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) here.