Teenagers trade partying shoes for soccer boots
DURING school holidays whenever teenagers get excess free time they resort to Vuzu parties that expose them to drugs, abuse and even STIs, but this is all set to change as Grassroot Soccer Zimbabwe has come up with initiatives to keep teenagers busy during holidays through sporting activities.
The holiday campaign programme currently has 200 boys and girls taking part in the competition. Adopting a two-thronged approach during the matches and tournaments that are held, participants in the programme go through counselling, HIV testing and education on drugs and substance abuse.
The soccer training progamme sets off on Monday to Friday where even some renowned football role models come in to inspire the teenagers to keep them engaged on the programme and they also get chances to do HIV quiz and friendly matches.
Through the aid of National Aids Council (Nac,) Grassroots Soccer managed to keep the teenagers off the streets and at the same time giving them a platform were they create awareness on several issues involving HIV and reckless behaviour that leads to STIs transmission.
Director of Grassroot Soccer Bekimpilo Moyo said that soccer was one of the best mediums to engage teenagers, especially the girl child.
“We use soccer to create awareness and at the same time conduct HIV testing and counselling during the matches. We also take that time to engage people who would have come to watch the games. The platform also offers the girl child a chance to play soccer,” said Moyo.
Moyo added that they decided to offer adolescents this platform for HIV testing after discovering that teenagers shun hospitals due to stigma.
“Most teenagers avoid going for HIV testing at hospitals and other testing points. As a result we give them a platform with a friendlier environment for them to come for HIV counselling and testing. After the matches those who would have decided to go for testing, do so as we have partnered with Nac and also family planning,” he said.
Communications officer for Grassroots soccer, Nompumelelo Bhebhe said they had a few challenges but due to some of the statutory instruments prohibited teenagers from making their own decisions to test for HIV and hence they have to consult the parents for consent.
“The only problem we face is that we can’t test teenagers below the age of 16 without the consent of their parents. As a result they have to get the consent of their parents. This becomes problematic in a situation whereby parents would have lied to their children and told them that they are taking tablets for a certain condition while they know that it’s for HIV,” she said.