The Regional Psychological Support Initiative (REPSSI) Forum, held inclusive consultations with youths from 13 countries on issues around livelihood skills, teenage pregnancy, gender based violence and sexual abuse, child marriage and substance abuse.
According Tumisang Tsolo, a REPSSI youth from Lesotho, their organization strives to see the stoppage of child marriages, which in most cases is caused by children trying to escape the wrath of molestation and abuse meted against them by their parents and or guardians.
â€œAs boys, we tend to see girls as objects to use whereas thatâ€™s not the case because we should see them as equals and we should protect them. We should only see them as equal to us,â€ Tsolo said.
He indicated that the social values imposed on children when they grow up are what exacerbate gender-based violence and abuse since boys and girls are subjected to very differing principles, where girls grow up understanding the importance of family while boys grow up out in the wild when they tend to grow to be brutal.
â€œA boy and girl child experience gender inequalities in their families differently,” he added.
Meanwhile another youth Mpho Chopho indicated that on other important life issues such as sexual reproductive health, boys are mostly sidelined yet they are expected to grow up to be responsible family men and duly assume their role in sexual reproductive health.
According to REPSSI board member â€˜Masentle Selikane, it is imperative that parents give an ear to their children when discuss issues and not dismiss them as disrespectful especially around sexual and sexuality issues.
â€œWe should normalize telling them that at a certain age, their bodies will change and that sex is good but at the right time and with responsibility
â€œWe only teach our children about the advantages and disadvantages of sex when the outcomes are harsh. We also have a habit of saying children should do certain chores as punishment yet it is the right thing to do. For instance, when a child arrives home around 10pm, a parent will say they will wash dishes the whole week, as if washing dishes is a wrong thing to do.
â€œThere shouldnâ€™t be a case where it is said that Mpho will do house chores while Teboho will fix the car. And then we get surprised that when they get to marriage the boy seems to treat the girl as a maid not an equal. So as REPSSI, we teach a boy child to see a girl as a fellow human being equal to him not an object to use.
â€œNowadays boys see girls as sex objects, they donâ€™t see a human image same as them hence they are unable to protect women. Their upbringing has given him an idea that they approach women and sleep with them. So we are saying that we start with this childâ€™s upbringing to be a boy child that sees a girl as an equal. Our boys here know that if a girl menstruates, he will provide sanitary pads,â€ Selikane concluded.
The REPSSI 6th biannual regional Forum which began today goes on in Maputo, Mozambique till Friday.