Empowering the youth of South Africa

8 July 2016
High school learners such as these girls will benefit from the national campaign to prevent HIV among young women and adolescent girls. © UNFPA South Africa

An ambitious and ground-breaking campaign for adolescent girls and young women, launched by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, aims to prevent HIV among young women and adolescent girls in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

The launch was attended by the Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, eight Cabinet and deputy ministers, provincial premiers, donors and executive municipality mayors.

Although progress has been made in curbing the HIV infection rate in South Africa, more than 2000 girls and women aged 15-24 years are infected with HIV every week, Mr. Ramaphosa said. This infection rate is one of the highest in the world.

You are the heart and future of South Africa. Focus on education. Seek out information and services to prevent HIV infections and pregnancies that are undesirable.
- South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (far left), Health  Minister Dr. Motsoaledi (third from right) and UNFPA Representative Dr. Esther Muia (far right) singing the song 'Condomize’ at the  launch. © UNFPA South Africa

The country registers more than 72,000 health facility births among adolescents annually. The Deputy President’s message to men was resolute and clear: “Leave our young women alone! Leave our young girls alone! If you want love, go for your peers,” he said. He called on men to play a central role in promoting safer sexual practices and bringing an end to violence against women, and to stop acting as ‘sugar daddies’.

The Deputy President had an encouraging message for young people: “You are the heart and future of South Africa. Focus on education. Seek out information and services to prevent HIV infections and pregnancies that are undesirable. Reach out to the stars!”

UNFPA provides technical support

The first ever multi-sectoral, national three-year campaign was developed with technical support from UNFPA. It will focus on reducing HIV infections, unwanted pregnancies, school dropout, sexual and gender-based violence, unemployment and a shortage of economic opportunities among girls and young women, initially in the 51 most affected sub-districts. It will provide increased access to sexual and reproductive health information and services through adolescent- and youth-friendly facilities, School Health initiatives, community and peer outreach and support, and parenting programmes for parents of teenagers and young parents.

We stand ready to support this initiative as it seeks to secure a better future for youth. - UNFPA Representative, Dr. Esther Muia

UNFPA Representative Dr. Esther Muia spoke on behalf of the United Nations system in South Africa on the importance of the campaign, which comes just 14 days after the endorsement of the Political Declaration on Ending AIDS by 2030. The declaration highlighted the urgency of reversing the trend of new infections among adolescent girls and young women. Dr. Muia pledged the UN system’s continued support in the implementation of the campaign to ensure it achieves the intended objectives. “We stand ready to support this initiative as it seeks to secure a better future for youth,” she said. 

Making condoms available to young people

As a demonstration of UNFPA’s commitment to the campaign by promoting dual protection (prevention of HIV/STIs and unwanted pregnancy), Dr. Muia handed over 500 condom dispensers (with a total capacity of 115,000 condoms) to Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, the Minister of Health. The condom dispensers are part of UNFPA’s support to the health sector to make condoms available for young people in institutions of higher learning. The campaign, led by young people, is funded through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief DREAMS initiative, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the German Development Bank (KfW) and the South African Government. 

By Ziyanda Ngoma