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Women’s Coalition Against Cancer (WOCACA), a national NGO focusing on reproductive cancers, has highlighted lack of skills and knowledge as some of the barriers preventing young people from actively participating in programs designed to promote sexual and reproductive health (SRH) rights and fight cervical cancer in their localities.

During a one-day training WOCACA conducted at Baka Training Center in Karonga on 22 February 2022, it was observed that young people could play “a very influential role” in national efforts to prevent cervical cancer and fight for SRH rights, but need to be imparted will skills and knowledge about cervical cancer and sexual and reproductive health rights.

Young people undergoing training in cervical cancer prevention and sexual and reproductive health rights in Karonga

WOCACA is currently implementing a project known as “Supporting coordinated civil society advocacy for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health (WCAH) in COVID-19 response and recovery” with a grant from Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

The overall goal of the project is to support national objective to build capacity for community awareness and mobilization in order to create demand for cervical cancer prevention and control services. The project is being implemented in Karonga district.

And in order to strengthen coordinated efforts and partnerships, WOCACA in collaboration with Karonga Debate Club (KADEC) a youth NGO organized a one-day training workshop for young people to increase their knowledge and capacity in promoting cervical cancer prevention and their sexual and reproductive health rights in Karonga.

The training attracted 36 participants with a selection of young people, which included girls, young women and boys from local clubs and community-based organizations (CBOs) from villages of Katolola, Mwambuli, Mwahimba, Mweneyumba, Mwafilaso, Yaphet Mwakasungula and Mwanegha Villages in Paramount Chief Kyungu in the district.

To promote active participation, the facilitators used presentations, discussions, questions and answers, which allowed the youth to freely express their concerns and needs relating to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including cervical cancer and their SRH Rights.

WOCACA Executive Director Maud Mwakasungula said during an interview that the training, participants demonstrated lack of or limited knowledge about cervical cancer prevention and control.

“This was observed as young people, especially girls and young women, asked many questions to deeply understand cervical cancer and its negative effects. Awareness to understand and adopt is relevant for successful implementation of activities related to STIs, including cervical cancer,” said Mwakasungula.

The training covered a number of topics, including understanding the basic facts of HIV, TB, hepatitis and other STIs including biological and social risk factors that promote the spread of STIs; human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer and a community-based effort to eliminate cervical cancer as well as general guidelines on COVID-19

Going forward, Mwakasungula further said conducting regular trainings to the young people on these topics would be critical to enable them to articulate what they have learned and to take those opportunities and present to their localities.

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