WELCOMED WITH OPEN ARMS

    BY LINE: CLARISSE GUSENGA

    Do you have burning questions about relationships, sex or your bodily changes and wonder where to find answers? Did you know there are programmes at youth and health centres that are designed to equip you with the knowledge you need? With the help of Ni Nyampinga Divine and two nurses called Redempta and Eugene, we did some research to bring you more information about these services and where you can find them.

    DIVINE AND REDEMPTA AT NYAMASHEKE HEALTH CENTRE

    Divine, 18 years old and head of a club at St Famille, a school in Nyamasheke District, is often asked questions by fellow club members regarding sexual reproductive health. Some of the questions include how to avoid unwanted pregnancy and how to maintain a healthy relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend. They’ve also asked about how you can know your menstrual cycle and when it’s possible to get pregnant. With all these questions, she decided to meet Redempta, a nurse from Nyamasheke Health Centre who is in charge of sexual reproductive health for youth. Her goal was to ask all these questions and more.

    When Divine met Redempta she told her: “There are Youth Corners at each and every health centre in the country which were set up to help young people and ensure their sexual reproductive health is taken care of.” These services support girls and boys from 12 to 25 years of age and are overseen by a trained nurse who gives young people the information they need.

    Redempta explained they have different services for youth, including watching films about how to prevent HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. They also provide young people with advice and test them for HIV. The nurses are available to talk about how to prevent unintended pregnancies and the changes that girls and boys go through during puberty.

    Divine learnt that the Youth Corners at different health centres have different operating times. For instance, Nyamasheke Health Centre is open twice a week but there are other health centres that operate every day and even during weekends. Regardless, the services they provide are the same. They receive young people of all ages and serve them with care and respect. Be sure to check the operating hours of your local health centre to know when it is open.

    Redempta emphasised that all these services are specifically for youth and that they don’t leave anyone behind. She also said that you can go alone or with your friends and that you can organise a visit as a club. When you have a personal issue, they receive you individually and keep everything confidential. Redempta wants all young people to visit a health centre near them as all the services are free.

    CLARISSE AND EUGENE AT RULINDO YOUTH CENTRE

    After visiting Nyamasheke, I asked myself if there are other places girls and boys can access information about sexual reproductive health apart from health centres. That’s why I visited Rulindo Youth Centre to meet Eugene, a nurse who oversees youth sexual reproductive health.

    Eugene told Ni Nyampinga that they receive boys and girls of all ages every day of the week - from Monday to Friday. They have open sessions where they talk about how to avoid contracting HIV and they explain to girls what menstruation is and why good hygiene, when you have your period, is important. They conduct tests for HIV/AIDS and provide continuous support to those who are HIV positive. Eugene and the youth centre team also share how to prevent unintended pregnancies and conduct private sessions with anyone who wishes to discuss personal issues.

    Eugene told Ni Nyampinga that they do their best to give all the information a young person could need regarding sexual reproductive health. This might include teaching young people how to say ‘No’ to anything that might harm them such as unprotected sex. They also receive young couples and teach them how to have a healthy relationship and protect themselves. The centre provides and teaches people how to use condoms for those who need them.

    I asked Eugene if they keep following up with a person if they have a serious personal issue and he told me that if the person agrees, they stay in touch to see how they are progressing. When necessary, they call them back for another conversation.

    After visiting the youth centre, I realised that there are very welcoming staff and was very happy with the warm welcome from Eugene. I was also surprised that the youth centres have different types of services that I didn't know existed. I encourage all girls and boys in Rwanda to visit their local youth centre and make use of these services.