Call to Chiefs: Promote Youth-Friendly Sexual Health By-Laws

Senior Chief Chikumbu

In a recent capacity-building workshop in Blantyre, Senior Chief Chikumbu of Mulanje district, also serving as the Girl’s Reproductive Justice Ambassador for Nyale Institute, urged traditional leaders nationwide to refrain from enacting by-laws that restrict adolescents’ access to sexual health services.

Acknowledging their role as custodians of culture, Chief Chikumbu also admitted that some community by-laws inadvertently infringe upon the sexual health rights of adolescents.

 “Chiefs as custodians of the culture, sometimes unknowingly come up with by-laws in our communities that infringe on the sexual health rights of adolescents,” said Senior Chief Chikumbu.  

She emphasized the importance of community leaders advocating for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) by implementing youth-friendly by-laws.

Dr. Godfrey Kangaude, Executive Director of Nyale Institute, echoed Chief Chikumbu’s sentiments, stressing that local leaders should actively lobby for policy changes and allocate resources to support SRHR initiatives. 

Kangaude emphasized that such involvement ensures policies are responsive to adolescents’ actual needs.

Furthermore, Dr. Kangaude advised parents and guardians against punitive measures towards adolescents navigating the challenges of puberty and newfound romantic interests.

He urged adults to provide guidance and support instead of reacting with fear or punishment.

“Sometimes adults are scared when adolescents start to exhibit romantic behaviour and react by punishing them, including using the law when instead they should offer guidance and support,” said Kangaude.

The workshop, which drew government officials, civil society stakeholders, social welfare officers, educators, students, and healthcare professionals, was seen as a significant step towards addressing the issues faced by adolescents at home and in school. 

Final-year student Deborah Nyanjagha from Exploits University praised the workshop for offering practical solutions to these challenges.

By encouraging chiefs and community leaders to adopt youth-friendly policies, workshops like these aim to create environments where adolescents can access essential sexual health services and support without stigma or restriction.