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Empowering Youth: Climate Change, Sexual Reproductive Health, and World Environment Day in Zambia

By Bernadette Deka Zulu
Founder: Shaping Futures Zambia
Introduction
World Environment Day (WED) provides an opportunity to engage youth in addressing environmental challenges. In Zambia, where climate change impacts intersect with sexual and reproductive health (SRH) challenges, empowering young people becomes crucial. Let’s explore how these issues intersect and ways to tackle them together.
In 2020, it was recorded that Zambia ranked twelfth in Africa with an adolescent birth rate of 115 births per 1,000 girls.
Nearly 30% of Zambian adolescent girls become pregnant by the age of 18. Therefore, improving access to SRH commodities and services is crucial to address this challenge.

Climate Change Impacts on SRH:
Maternal Health:

Climate change affects maternal health due to extreme weather events, strained health systems, and disrupted access to SRH services.
Gender-Based Violence: Increased vulnerability to climate-related disasters can lead to gender-based violence, including harmful practices like child marriage

Youth and SRH Challenges in Zambia:

There are a number of barriers sexual reproductive health challenges in that adolescents, especially girls, face stigma and discrimination, hindering their access to SRH services. Besides this, Teen Pregnancy and HIV Rates are escalating.
These challenges persist due to limited knowledge and access. Engaging youth in SRH education and awareness programs becomes vital.

Strategies for Empowerment

Empowering young people with accurate information can lead to healthier choices and behaviors and as Zambia faces significant SRH challenges, efforts to improve access, education, and awareness can make a positive impact.
-Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE):
Target Youth: Implement CSE programs in schools and communities to educate youth about SRH, consent, and gender equality.Address Climate Impacts: Include climate change awareness in CSE to empower youth to protect their health and environment.
Intersectional Approach:
Recognize Identities: Understand how compounding crises and intersecting identities (gender, age, wealth, indigeneity, race) shape vulnerability and resilience.Inclusive Policies: Ensure climate actions consider diverse needs and do not exacerbate inequalities

World Environment Day: Youth Action

Awareness Campaigns for Youth-Led Initiatives call for engaging young people in organizing events, tree planting drives, and clean-up campaigns, linking and highlighting the connection between a healthy environment and SRH.

Advocacy and Policy-Youth Voices:

It is vital to encourage youth participation in policy discussions related to climate change and SRH as well as aligning policies that advocate for the integration of climate action and SRH services.

Conclusion
As we have joined the world to celebrate World Environment Day, our country goals now ought to take a clear direction in empowering youth to be environmental stewards and champions of SRH. By addressing climate change and SRH together, a healthier, more resilient future for all is created.
Every action counts! whether it’s planting a tree, educating peers, or advocating for inclusive policies. We celebrate World Environment Day by fostering a sustainable and equitable Zambia!

bernadettedekazulu@gmail.com

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