Accepted paper:

Conflicting Understandings of Youth Sexualities: Voices from Zambian youths.


Agness Mumba-Wilkins (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws on recent research into Zambian youths' understandings of their sexuality and shows how this challenge the normative values of comprehensive sexuality education. It argues for more dialogue between local and imported knowledge and values to address early pregnancies and marriages.

Paper long abstract:

Zambian youth's sexual behaviours continue to be cited as contributing to high rates of early pregnancies, child marriages and new HIV infections. To address what are seen to be social problems linked to youth sexualities, the Zambian Government through the Ministry of General Education (MoGE), has since the early 1990s embraced comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) within the school curriculum. Nonetheless, despite the inclusion of sexuality education in the school curriculum, early pregnancies, marriages and new HIV infections among youths continue. This paper draws on recent in-depth qualitative research focused on youth understandings of sexuality in a remote ethnic community in Zambia. The research sought to privilege youth voices and involved observations, focus groups with male and female youth, and interviews with adult stakeholders such as; teachers, traditional counselors and community leaders. My analysis shows how youth's understandings of their sexual lives are still strongly shaped by indigenous knowledges, practices and values and that these sit in tension with the modern moral codes and values that are embraced by CSE. I argue that there is need for modern and traditional knowledges to be in dialogue together in any efforts to promote social change in youth sexualities, instead of these efforts assuming the erasure of rich indigenous knowledge and values. I further argue that CSE practitioners interested in supporting social change must attend to local knowledge embraced by youths in the different communities in which they are working, rather than assuming the superiority and relevance of Westernized knowledge, values and moral codes.

panel Anth33
Intimate relationships, marriage, and social change in southern Africa