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Empowering and educating young people on sexual and reproductive health

(Dr. Nik Daliana Nik Farid is UM (UMCares) Community Engagement Grant Holder)

 

eThe onset of adolescence not only brings changes to young people’s bodies, but also causes significant vulnerabilities because they are undergoing rapid cognitive, behavioural, emotional and social development. Malaysia is home to more than 5 million adolescents who are frequently reluctant to seek sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. Adolescent SRH must be supported. This means providing them with access to comprehensive SRH education, and services to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. It also means empowering young people to know and understand their SRH rights.

 

Recognizing that many adolescents have difficulty accessing SRH services, the Malaysian Care for Adolescent Project (MyCAP) and UMCares from the University of Malaya have joined forces to initiate the Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme for teenagers living in Flat Bandaraya Kampung Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur. The programme is being implemented by a team consisting of Public Health specialists and a psychologist from the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.
 
The objective of this programme is to promote awareness, increase knowledge, and improve attitudes and practices among adolescents about SRH. It is also aimed at encouraging adolescents to make the right choices when dealing with SRH issues. The programme was promoted among parents and guardians who are responsible for teenagers because we believe they too play an important role.
This programme, which would not have been possible without the efforts of community leaders and parents, began with an introductory session among teenagers. Using face to face communication, modules on Adolescent Health and Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health were presented by two Public Health specialists. Besides lectures, an informative video on teenage pregnancy was shown to the teenagers to help them understand the factors associated with teenage pregnancy.

 

Also, it provided some recommendations on how teenagers and parents can deal with the problem if pregnancies occur. Using a good audio system, the information on SRH was delivered to everyone
present in the building during introductory session. Following the introductory session, smaller group sessions were held with adolescents aged 11-12 years. As they are in the initial phase of puberty, a module on puberty was presented separately to boys and girls. The module taught the adolescents about their changing bodies and what happens as they prepare for puberty. The girls were taught about menstruation i.e. how it happens and what to do when it occurs. They were also reminded to be prepared all the time by keeping sanitary towels in their school bags. The boys, on the other hand, were informed about wet dreams and how to deal with it when they occur. Pamphlets on HIV/AIDS were distributed to all the participants for further reading and reference.

 

In order to ensure that this programme is sustainable and makes an impact, an entire community approach has been designed to extend the initiative to schools by involving students, teachers and parents. Additionally, since more adolescents are turning to the Internet and social media to seek information and share their problems, a website has been designed and developed that targets adolescents. Adolescents who feel shy to seek information on SRH are can surf this website at www.myadolescenthealth.org.

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