We chatted to Georgia Arnold of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation about the issues affecting youth in our continent as well as a show based on these struggles and opportunists, MTV Shuga
The conversations that people are having around sex, contraception and HIV need to change so that the stigma around sex can be addressed. In addition, everyone should be responsible for birth control and safe sex, not just women. This is the sentiment that came from a round table discussion which was recently hosted, Wednesday 12 April by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation.
MTV Shuga is a programme implemented by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. It strives to provide information in the form of edutainment to young people in order to address the issues that they face every day – including love, sex, teenage pregnancy, contraception, STD prevention, HIV and LGBQTI. The main element of the programme discussed at the round table was the television drama series, MTV Shuga: Down South. Panellists and the audience were treated to an exclusive screening of episode 4, 5 and 6 which served as an introduction to an engaging and robust discussion around these issues.
A drama series such as MTV Shuga: Down South is an absolute necessity since young people still lack access to sexual health information. Most learn about sex on the playground, not in Life Orientation class or at home. Learning about the mechanics of sex is very different to the sexual journey that young people have to face as they develop in their teenage years. Teachers are often not trained well enough to help, while parents may not have the knowledge. “I encourage the youth to do research on these different issues. There is a lot of information available online on credible platforms as well as programmes such as MTV Shuga which can also assist them,” says Whitney Chinogwenya, Brand and Communications Lead at Marie Stopes International.
She says while a wide range of birth control methods are available for free, most girls are unaware of the options that are available to them. “The intrauterine device (IUD), known as the loop, is very effective because it works instantly when inserted into the vagina and does not require regular user compliance. It can also function as an emergency contraceptive measure post unprotected sex, similar to the morning after pill. The loop can be used for five to ten years. When one is ready to have a baby, the device is removed and conception can happen in a short time.”
The audience discussed condom usage and the consensus was that condoms are vital in both preventing unplanned pregnancy, HIV infection and other STIs. In addition it was highlighted that contraception should be the responsibility of both parties in a relationship.
When asked who should carry condoms, the audience’s response was that it should be the responsibility of both parties involved, though society is still expectant of the male partner to be the one in possession. There is stigma attached to a young girl or woman carrying a condom. Assumptions are made about the woman and they are not necessarily fair or correct. There is a challenge though in accessing condoms – affordability and availability of condoms for young people particularly in outlying areas.
While abortion is legal in this country, many health facilities will not carry out abortions. A key issue touched on is that of healthcare workers that shame young girls who to have an abortion. “An abortion at a state hospital is often traumatic. Some nurses shame and scold you,” says Deshnee Subramany, News Editor at Huffington Post South Africa.
Few people are talking to young women about the choices that they have regarding their bodies and sex. It is also concerning that pregnancy is still spoken about as if it is something which women have to face alone.
Legato Walaza, the actress who plays Zamo on MTV Shuga: Down South, confesses that many of the young girls in her school fell pregnant at 15 and 16. “My cousin was one of them and I saw the stigma which rose from that,” she says.
We all need to take ownership by getting informed and seeking out information about sexual health. To facilitate this MTV Shuga has important content which is distributed widely and for free. “It’s good to see young people taking an interest in making informed decisions that impact their lives. MTV Shuga provides them with content that resonates and empowers them,” says MC, DJ Sbu.