Better sex education and health services needed in Kiribati | Pacific Beat

Better sex education and health services needed in Kiribati

Better sex education and health services needed in Kiribati

Updated 16 August 2013, 11:10 AEST

Kiribati has a young population, with 57 per cent of the population under 24 years old.

That focuses the need for a great deal of attention on the need for effective adolescent sexual health.

It led to the release this week of a report 'Pacific Youth: Their Rights, Our Future', - based on the findings of a study by the New Zealand Parliamentarians' Group on Population and Development.

NZ MP Jan Logie who is in Kiribati for the release of the report says the youth voiced a clear message that access to sexual health services in Kiribati was difficult.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Jan Logie, New Zealand Parliamentarians' Group on Population and Development

LOGIE: Well it's a report that came out of a submission process that we had a hearing last year with submissions from I think 32 different organisations from across the Pacific, some NGOs, some government groups, UN organisations and doctors and academics and we heard oral submissions from some of those people, and the group that heard the submissions was made up of parliamentarians from New Zealand and five different Pacific countries. And out of that process of the most up-to-date I guess information around the situation for young people in the Pacific, and relating to sexual and reproductive health rights, we've developed this report.
 
COUTTS: And it's involving the youth themselves. What were they telling you?
 
LOGIE: They were telling us, it was a pretty clear message that accessing services at the moment is difficult for them. There are cultural barriers and there are physical access barriers as well and it's not to dissimilar to situations that we may recognise in Australia and New Zealand as well for young people of services of the young people currently feel often that they're being judged. If they go to a mainstream service, they might get told off for being sexually active and it means that they don't want to go. They may not be able to afford to access this or there maybe cultural shame about going, so they don't go, and if the service often issued a confidentiality would often also mean they're not able to access their rights.
 
COUTTS: It's obviously as I say a fairly sensitive issue. It's a very sensitive issue in the Pacific sexual reproduction and health rights. And I'm just wondering how much and how forthright the young or the youth were, given that they would have been speaking to some of their elders with the Kiribati parliamentarians and due respect to yourselves as well. So how forthright do you think they were
 
LOGIE: They were fantastic actually, just really generous with their experiences and just in Kiribati, this week, we met with the KFHA, which is a local family planning or Healthy Families Organisation and their youth team there go out and do public drama and music education work around sexual and reproductive rights and they were I guess because they've been part of that organisation, they've developed a comfort, being able to talk about the issues. And I maybe wrong, but part of what I sensed in Kiribati is that there was a terrible colonial history where at one time women were having family planning and IUDs inserted without their knowledge and without their consent, and in the 70's when this was found out, there was a really significant backlash against family planning, because for obvious reasons in response to that. 
 
But I had a bit of a sense that for some young people, that history's more distant now. So they possibly with the urbanisation as well are more comfortable talking about these issues than maybe some of the older people.
 
COUTTS: Well sexually transmitted diseases, Chamydia in particular, is a key problem, not just in Kiribati, as is teen pregnancy. Did any of these meetings and sessions with the youth help you develop policies to try and understand that more?
 
LOGIE: Well, through the open hearing, we certainly, that was part of the point of that and the meetings that we've just had in Kiribati that as in any country, the Pacific cultural context, it is really complex and there are a lack of services. There's one service in South Tarawa that is youth orientated and the KFHA group are just really getting going now. And there is massive urbanisation. Young people have been moving in from the islands. There's the loss of the traditional structures and I guess tightness of family. A lot of young people are staying with extended family now and there's a massive cultural shift and all of that without access to servicing really good education, it makes sense.
 
COUTTS: Is this a one off or will there be further hearings like this?
 
LOGIE: We have them every parliamentary term in New Zealand with the NZPPD group, the last time we looked at maternal health and I'm not sure what our topic will be next time,
 

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