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In this day and age, it is staggering to think that although women and girls make up half of the world’s population, they continue to represent over 70% of the world’s poor. Creating a more equitable and sustainable future means building better opportunities in education, health and employment. This not only has benefits for women and girls, but also creates a ripple effect for societies and future generations to come.

At DSW, we work hand-in-hand with young people in east Africa to ensure a better future is possible. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we talked with several young women about their involvement in our activities and the impact that our outreach has had on their lives. Here are two of their stories in their own words…

International Women’s Day 2017:  Silvia is Bold for Change on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Kenya                  

Silvia

My name is Silvia Bulali, I am 24 years old, brought up in Korogocho, a low-income neighborhood in Nairobi. I am a young lady who is passionate about the youth as well as sexual and reproductive health programs.

Growing up in Korogocho exposed me to the tough slum life, bringing me face to face with poverty, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, drug abuse and crime.

However, through the guidance of my late sister who taught me the importance of self dignity and hard work, I grew up striving to achieve the best for myself and in turn develop and empower my community.  I especially had the heart to support young girls around me to better themselves and their futures.

After I graduated from high school in 2011, I joined ‘Yes We Can’, youth group in our area. I liked what the youth in the groups were doing. They were mentoring young boys and girls, educating the community on HIV/AIDS and encouraging youths to stop drug use and crime. They instead encouraged these young people to engage in productive activities.

In 2015, I was selected by group members to attend a peer education training conducted by DSW, that’s when I encountered DSW. My life changed positively through the peer education, entrepreneurship and resource mobilization trainings.

The peer education and SRH training was the best thing that happened to me and I realized my passion is working in community. With the knowledge in peer education, I participated in several DSW organized peer education outreach activities. 

I began doing peer education sessions on family planning, life skills, mentorship and sexual reproductive health in my community to empower and sensitize my fellow youth. I have been able to mentor so many boys and girls and even guided and mentored some ‘Yes We Can’ Members who are now good peer educators.

My life as a peer educator has led me to attend sexual and reproductive health activities events like the 7th National Organization of Peer Educators (NOPE) Conference on Peer Education, Sexuality, HIV and AIDS Conference, World AIDS Day and World Contraception Day. With the knowledge I have acquired as a peer educator, I contributed towards setting up a ‘youth desk’ at Korogocho Health Center where the youth can access youth friendly services and information easily and comfortably.

Many thanks to Collins Baswony for authoring the story and to Samuel Gathondu for his assistance. Both officers work in the DSW Kenya office.

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International Women’s Day 2017:  “In My Own Words”. A Success Story from Uganda                  

Uganda

My name is Nabwire Maliza and I am 19 years old. I dropped out of school when I got pregnant in senior two. I was only 15 years old by then. I was chased away from home and school, and I had no any other alternative apart from getting married.

After giving birth, I really wanted to go back to school but I had lost support of the entire family. Whenever I talked about it, they always referred me to the father of my children. I gave up school and settled for marriage. At 19 years now, I already have two children simply because I did not have access to information on SRH and services.

While struggling to make ends meet to provide for myself and children, I learnt of DSW through the Youth Champions and he advised me to join them. Indeed, I did not hesitate to request to join!

This was a turning point for me and my family, I have attended trainings in SRHR, peer education sessions, leadership and management trainings all organized by DSW. These have empowered me to negotiate with my husband for the use of family planning and child spacing.

Secondly, I also acquired counselling skills that I have been able to put to use towards fellow peers sexuality education skills. My community has recognized my roles and support and I currently through nomination serve as a Youth Champion in my Sub County.

With confidence and empowerment, I have decided to go back to school to attain a certificate in counselling and guidance. I am sure this passion will enable me get a substantive employment. I have a strong belief that life is what you make it.

Many thanks to David Turyamusiima for sourcing and authoring this story. David is a communications officer for our DSW office in Uganda.