MTHATHA (South Africa), Traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape have committed to assist government combat the spread of HIV in the province.
On Friday, traditional leaders including kings and queens, chiefs, and representatives of faith organisations, business and civil society gathered at the Bumbane Great Place at the AbaThembu Kingdom in Mthatha for dialogue that formed part of the main World Aids Day commemoration.
The elders raised various concerns that affect the future of the youth in the province. They alluded to high unemployment rates and poverty and asked government to support programmes that could help bring down the prevalence of HIV.
We have a programme for young girls called Inkciyo, which encourages young girls to preserve their virginity and to abstain from sex until they get married, said one of the traditional leaders.
Young girls who are part of the Inkciyo programme thought it would help if government paid social grants to young virgins instead of child support grants to young mothers. Because of poverty, young girls opt to have children so that they can have a monthly income. We encourage our peers who have not yet had sex to join us in preserving our virginity, said one of the girls in the programme.
But the issue of sex, one of the girls said, does not only involve girls, as young boys and men are part of the equation.
We need fathers to encourage their boys to join the Inkciyo movement so that it can have a bigger impact, she said.
The dialogue was led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was accompanied by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, a number of Deputy Ministers, leaders of business sector and civil society.
The Deputy President applauded traditional leaders for their contribution towards fighting the spread of HIV. He said he fully supports their efforts aimed at addressing HIV/Aids.
The focus must be on having dialogues with men and boys in order to address issues around HIV/Aids and gender based violence, said the Deputy President.
He spoke strongly against ukuthwala, a custom that allows men to forcefully marry young girls without their consent. It [ukuthwala] violates their [women and girls] human rights
He also said traditional leaders and parents must see to it that formal schooling becomes compulsory, until children complete grade 12.
The Deputy President said government is working on making access to higher education free for those who come from poor families.
Education still the key to a better life
Motsoaledi echoed the importance of education, especially for young girls. He encouraged young girls to join the She Conquers movement, which is a national programme that seeks to empower girls and young women holistically.
Globally, South Africa is leading the charts on HIV infections, and that is nothing to be proud of. What is it that we love so much that other countries do not love? said Motsoaledi, leaving the leaders to ponder.
He encouraged young women to go after economic empowerment and independence, and discouraged the phenomenon of 'blessers' - older men who lure disadvantaged young women with money and 'the good life'.
Men do not want to use protection they don't even want to get tested. They say 'if my wife or partner has tested negative, then I am also negative', which is wrong. On top of that, they prey on young girls and infect them, the Minister said.
He encouraged men to consider medical male circumcision, as it has proven to lower chances of HIV infection.
The Deputy President, accompanied by all who were at the dialogue, proceeded to the Walter Sisulu University Stadium to address the masses who gathered to observe the national commemoration.
He will later officiate at the handover ceremony of a cyber-lab to EN Seku Secondary School.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK