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Oahile unpacks youth activism

13 Jun 2023

The expression that dreams do not come true just because you dream, but hard work makes things happen is the best notion to describe Mr Trevor Oahile.

That is how he has become a youth activist of repute. 

Growing up to the notions that boys or men generally do not pay heed to health issues had no bearing in his life, hence he decided to wear a different cap and be a different young male keen to make a difference.

With more than eight years doing voluntary work, he has changed lives of young people not only in Botswana, but around the African continent too. 

Having worked with several organisations such as UNFPA, Goals Africa, SRHR Africa Trust, Youth Impact among others, he has earned the title of youth ambassador.

His journey dates back to his days at Mmaphula Junior Secondary School at Palapye. 

Oahile always marveled at the fact that every time there were HIV testing campaigns and sex talks, boys seemed disinterested or indefferent. 

“In HIV testing campaigns, girls outnumbered boys, and the few boys that got the courage to queue, would not make it to the consultation or counselling room,” he said. 

That steered the then Form One pupil to be a peer educator to enable him to be the change he yearned to be. 

He was exposed to peer education trainings by Stepping Stones, which he said gave him the knowledge and skills to study his environment. 

“One of the prominent issues was that of men and boys’ reluctance to participate in health issues, especially issues of HIV/AIDS, sexual reproductive health and human rights issues. 

This saw me volunteering, my main aim being to make a difference in changing the status quo being the indefference attitude of the boy child because at the end of the day they are also affected by health issues. 

He said talking sex, sexual reproductive health in Setswana culture has been a taboo, but deemed it a blind spot that youth movements continued to challenge and lobbying for both parents and children to open up. 

Mr Oahile, who has been the country coordinator of Youth Power Hub project since 2001, pointed out that the traditionalist communities had led to a silence that had contributed to social challenges such as teenage pregnancy, HIV spread and sexual transmitted infections, among others. 

Failure to open up or lack of closeness between parents and their children has proved to be a challenge, as the two parties find it edgy to talk about every aspect of life and challenges resulting to social ills due to misconceptions or ill advises. 

“Historically parents do not talk about sexual reproductive health with their children, and the children cannot speak freely to their parents. It’s never discussed in a home environment. Parents expect children to learn sexuality at school, but the information is never enough. 

That way the youth get little information that may lead them to making wrong decisions.” 

He said sexual education was not supposed to be a taboo, but used to prepare youth for the future and help them make right decisions about their sexual life.

Mr Oahile, who has a number of awards to his belt, said there was need for comprehensive education on issues of sexuality and such should be communicated appropriately, especially at home, school and social clubs, including the church, despite the fact that religious leaders are cagey about such issues. 

He said it was sad that youth continued to engage in sexual relations, getting pregnant and some being infected by STIs, yet sexxuality was still deemed a taxing issue to be addressed in churches. 

Mr Oahile said sexuality education was not about scaring young people, but about sexual diversity, about available options, contraceptives to use, family planning, the right to make a decision on issues of  engaging in relationships. 

He said if young people got the right information it would empower them to make right decisions. He said such would help them avoid trials and errors likely to leave them with bad consequencies to deal with in the future. 

The award-winning activist said issues of contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies, menstruation, sexual transmitted diseases, ARVs, were issues of concern as they affected youths’ daily lives. 

He complained that the under 16s were not allowed to access family planning services and or youth friendly clinics without the consent of parents or guardians, saying such state of afdfairs automatically denied them access to proper information, which often led to teenage pregnancy. 

Mr Oahile, who was among Botswana’s delegate during the recent Forbes 30 Summit, said some, due to lack of information, made wrong decisions such as using plastics in place of condoms, whereas others ended up with STIs and HIV. 

“There is stigma on those with STIs and living with HIV, resulting in some youths defaulting while others end up not seeking medical attention, because age does not allow them.” 

He said young people had the  power to propel change, rather than allowing the society to  jeopardise their health and life. 

The former co-host of radio show, Don’t get it Twisted where they had conversations with young people across the country discussing sexual reproductive health issues, called for the adults to do the right thing, and relate with their children so that they do not rely on their peers for information. 

Sharing the sentiments on the role of youth in building resilient health system, Ms Dineo Moerane, a manager at Global Health Strategies in South Africa,  said it was important that youth understood their bodies belonged to them and them alone, and therefore had to take charge and have information about all the contraceptives available for them.

Ms Moerane said most youths used social media and usually had conversation where they intensively discussed issues affecting them in general, pointing out that they were therefore bound to engage in risky behaviours in terms of their health and social interactions, especially those that were somehow lacking in terms of socio-economic welbeing. 

She urged parents to talk to the youth about sexual reproductive health and other hard to discuss topics to close the communication gap. 


Source : BOPA

Author : Lesedi Thatayamodimo

Location : GABORONE

Event : Interview

Date : 13 Jun 2023