Health experts and professionals from the healthcare sector participated in Health and Wellbeing Youth Leadership Workshop at Lincoln Corners in Pak American Cultural Center aiming to equip young Pakistanis with essential SRHR knowledge and skills.

Speaking at the event, Dr Tahani Zaidi, a community medicine resident at Aga Khan University Hospital and an SRHR expert said that the lack of awareness about reproductive health issues has far-reaching consequences, affecting physical, social, emotional, and mental health. “If unaddressed, these issues could perpetuate poor health outcomes, hinder educational and economic opportunities, and reinforce gender inequality,” she said.

Discussing the social taboos, she further said that the youth in Pakistan faced significant sexual and reproductive health challenges, compounded by socio-cultural taboos that limited access to essential SRHR services like family planning, contraception, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). She emphasized the need for widespread awareness about consent and sexual and reproductive rights within communities.

Samra Maqbool, Public Health Professional and Co-Founder of Nisa Kahaniyan, a social enterprise dedicated to SRHR education, curated the workshop. She highlighted the importance of addressing youth health issues in Pakistan, where 64% of the population is under the age of 24. “Workshops like these offer a safe space for youth to discuss health challenges, fostering better personal and professional lives,” Maqbool stated.

Hina Maqbool, a certified HR trainer, led participants in activities aimed at understanding personality types and enhancing communication skills to bolster SRHR awareness. A practical session focused on promoting self-awareness and interpersonal effectiveness.

Clinical Psychologist Tahreem Aurangzaib, specializing in behavioral and emotional counseling, delivered a talk on effective communication for healthy relationships. Aurangzaib emphasized the importance of teaching youth effective communication skills to navigate sensitive SRHR topics like consent and decision-making, which can help prevent unintended pregnancies, STIs, and sexual violence.

The workshop underscored the need for comprehensive policy reforms, in view of a population exceeding 240 million. Pakistan has a fertility rate of 3.47 births per woman and an unmet contraception need of 17% among married women, as per the 2017-18 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS). A UNICEF survey revealed that 49% of young girls were unaware of menstruation before their first period, indicating a severe gap in reproductive health education.

Experts highlighted the need of enhanced education, and youth-friendly health services to tackle the substantial SRHR challenges faced by Pakistani youth. “By fostering awareness and equipping young leaders with critical knowled byge, this initiative is a significant step toward improving the health and well-being of future generations in Pakistan”they noted .