By: Emma Beck, Associate Communications Manager, PSI
“I’m becoming an adolescent,” 14-year-old Hastings had said. “Brother, what should I know?”
Puberty’s onset had left Hastings feeling unsettled. But with no trusted health professional nor adult to turn to, Hastings felt his brother, only a few years older than he, was the only person Hastings could speak with.
But lying in his twin bed next to his brother, Hastings stared at the dark ceiling wondering if what his brother had shared was, in fact, the truth. While the conversation that night first exposed Hastings to his brother’s beliefs behind his body’s changes, Hastings had no idea that he, himself, could be at risk for having a child as an adolescent.
Two decades later, and Hastings has taken to the frontline: determined to deliver the nation’s next generation with the tools they need to own their health and life decisions, today.
Roughly three in 10 Malawian girls aged 15-19 have had or is expecting a child; among this cohort, one in five girls will drop out of school.
It’s within this context that Project N’zatonse works alongside young people to expand their access to and perception of family planning services, HIV, STI, Cervical cancer and Gender Based Violence screenings and treatments. Through youth-friendly health services training, N’zatonse, implemented by PSI/Malawi and supported by the German Government through KfW Development Bank and USAID, works in partnership public and private clinics to equip 36 nurses like Hastings to deliver the widest range of choices to young people—where they are and how they need.
Since 2014, the project has delivered more than 1 million SRH services, of which includes 220 thousand modern contraceptives
Today, Hastings is posted at a mobile service delivery site in Mwanza. He’s here once a month, stationed a mile down the road from an Open Day. PSI transports young people from the community event to Hastings’ mobile service delivery site.
Hastings tidies packets of varying contraceptive methods, hovering over a binder labeled “Family Planning Register.”
“Before girls come into this tent for services,’’ he explains, “girls go there”—he points through the tent’s netted screen—”for an informational class.”
“We have to start by reaching girls in groups,” Hastings says. “Girls come shy; we can make them more comfortable to share their experiences together in a space that guarantees their privacy.”
Based on young people’s expressed desire for privacy, service delivery sites section off where mothers and girls receive counseling. Mothers meet with providers in tents on one end of the site, girls on the other, so neither can see who enters nor leaves a counseling session. The adjustment makes girls feel secure, Hastings says.
Hastings shuffles out his service delivery tent, into the next. He clears his throat, pushing his black glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“Life’s obstacles are unavoidable,” he eyes the 12 young girls seated in rows of four, feeling the curiosity threading the space. “At your age, the main obstacle is getting pregnant before you reach your goals.” Hastings smiles, softly. “I’m here to teach you the skills to prevent that from happening.”