In the DRC, low literacy levels, high levels of stigma around sexual health and a lack of capacity at a community level to address health issues are all significant challenges to young people who need to access support for sexual and reproductive health matters.
One way ACET DRC addresses these challenges is to partner with local church radio to provide weekly, interactive radio shows to promote healthy relationships and sexual wellbeing among young people.
Engagement with the radio show content is facilitated through SMS and other feedback mechanisms delivered during the programmes: the young listeners can text or call in to ask questions, get advice from experts, and request topics for future shows.
The shows also challenge stigmatizing attitudes and cultural norms: the discrimination that young people face, particularly adolescent girls and young women, when accessing sexual and reproductive health services create barriers at an individual as well as community and societal levels.
Documented health rights abuses include being denied sexual and reproductive health information and services, and unauthorized disclosure of abuse and related psychological violence.
Benesha is a student at Bambiniere Secondary School, attending an ACET DRC Life Skills Club there, where she was trained as a peer educator.
After a radio show and counselling session, Benesha was referred to a youth-friendly health facility in Kinshasa for a health screening. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the centre was offering reduced services so the first person she encountered was a security guard, who asked, “Basui yo? Liyanzi ekoti?” meaning, “Have you been bitten by a bug? Or are you pregnant?” In the Lingala language, this is slang for a sexually transmitted infection and an unwanted pregnancy.
Had Bensha not been previously counselled about the visit by an ACET-trained school chaplain, she says she would have felt very scared.
Prior to the [ACET] training, I had very little knowledge and skills of how to express myself with confidence. I now feel empowered and I was confident that I was referred to the right place by a trusted person. I have since become fully informed and I am sharing my new-found knowledge and skills with others.