Happy World Creativity and Innovation Day! Today we are celebrating the innovative activities of the Busia Youth Empowerment Centre, an umbrella of various youth centres in Busia, Uganda supported by DSW and Action4Health Uganda, who travelled through their communities in a Youth Truck last month and did workshops on family planning, SRHR, and HIV and AIDS.
The Youth Truck, which is equipped with a public address system, is a creative way to reach marginalized people in rural areas.
Read on to meet the peer educators who led the outreach.
“We are working with different communities, and some of these communities are difficult to reach and very far away so it’s not easy to organise outreach programmes. The youth truck has supported us a lot because we move in distant communities but we lack transport – we don’t have the capacity to provide that for ourselves so the youth truck comes in to transport us and help us to mobilise because it’s fully facilitated with the public address system. The youth truck supports our young people by providing the music, speakers, microphones and everything that is required. We always go to hard-to-reach areas – there are some communities without electricity – but the youth truck has a solar system that works everywhere so we don’t need to hire a generator.” – Michael Wandera, Busia Youth Empowerment Centre, Busia, Uganda.
“Being part of a DSW-supported youth group, I have gained a lot of experience and knowledge in addressing issues concerning family planning and sexual and reproductive health. Because of the many cases of teenage pregnancy in my community, I always talk to teenage girls about contraceptives. These days children do a lot of things like going to discos, which you cannot control, but you can control how they shape the future by enlightening them about the importance of using contraceptive methods like condoms and pills, which are readily available in healthcare centres in my community. I have talked to so many girls and it makes me feel proud to see that they are changing their lives for the better.
In my community, to be a woman is challenging but also a learning experience. It makes me realize how many things I can do for myself and engage in various women-led initiatives to challenge the narratives that men should have more rights than women. My goal in life is to be a stronger woman and a mentor who trains girls to keep their heads up, focus on achieving their ambitions in life and know what’s good for them.” – Farida Nekesa, Busia, Uganda.
“I started making reusable sanitary towels for the girls in my village because they were facing a lot of challenges of early marriages and teenage pregnancies, and they were being taken advantage of. You will find that most girls will be forced into sex in exchange for sanitary pads and that made me feel bad. I started training them on how they could also make the pads at home with simple clothing materials. I got this knowledge of making sanitary towels when I joined the group called Foundation for Christ Ministry, which is supported by DSW. They trained us as peer educators on sexual and reproductive health and also took us to some entrepreneurship lessons to improve our skills. It was there that I learnt how to make the pads. We also go to schools and community outreaches and teach the girls there how to make them.” – Scovia Nakata, Foundation for Christ Ministry (FCM), Busia, Uganda.
“Education on HIV can be improved by raising awareness among young people on how it can be transferred from one person to the other. When people come to get tested at the centre, we always counsel them first before testing so that they can know the steps to take to protect themselves and others. DSW has supported us in peer learning, education on SRHR, community awareness and entrepreneurship. Health workers briefed me with more information and how to talk to people about the importance of contraceptives.” – Amoit Violet, Busia, Uganda.
“I have been trained about sexual and reproductive health by Action4Health Uganda. Through this training I gained knowledge of family planning and HIV and AIDS, which I share with young people in the community. I tell them about condoms and how they are effective not only in preventing unwanted pregnancies but also as protection from sexually transmitted infections. Most people in the community use condoms because we give them away for free. Action4Health provides us with condoms and whenever we go out to do outreach, we bring condoms and come back with empty boxes. My goal in life is not to see the youths out there knock stones and be left bleeding – I want them to learn something in life.” – Ichumar Esther Ruth, Busia, Uganda.
“I am part of Provident Initiative Uganda – I do drama and dance which I use to educate youths in the community since some people don’t understand the language we speak to them but, through dance and skits, they can understand the information we are trying to share.
I have a very young relative who already has seven kids and her husband ran away. When they taught me about family planning, I went to her and explained about it. Now she started using family planning methods and is doing well. Family planning is making young girls plan for their future, live the life that they want and do everything that they can to achieve their dreams. My dream is to have a hairdressing salon in Busia and I’m doing all I can to achieve it. I felt good that I helped my relative because she had a lot to manage with her kids. I have talked to other girls about contraceptives – some see it as a joke, but others respond to me with a positive attitude and they always want to know more.” – Oweki Rukia, Provident Initiative (Provin UG), Busia, Uganda.
“My training by Action4Health Uganda taught me more about family planning and when to have kids. Action4Health gave us condoms, pills and taught us how to use them as family planning methods. I just want the health centres in the community to give us young people a Youth Corner where we can go and talk about STDs and be free because youths are too shy to talk about it and they suffer a lot in silence. I teach my neighbours about family planning by giving them condoms and telling them about the use of pills. The problem with the young people is that they have a lot of myths about family planning and don’t want to hear about it, which is why they end up having many kids that they cannot take care of and putting themselves at risk. HIV can be prevented – I use condoms to protect myself. It’s an effective and affordable method. I always encourage my fellow peer educators to tell the community that HIV and AIDS are real, unplanned pregnancies are real and people should worry about the things they do.” – Muzafar Hassan, Nambochole Development Group, Busia, Uganda.
With the right information and access to health care, young people can make informed decisions about their SRHR. At DSW, we are committed to creating demand for and access to health information, services, supplies, and economic empowerment for youth. Help us to make this a reality – donate what you can today! Every cent is used to help us reach more and more vulnerable young people living in conditions of extreme poverty.
Photos by Brian Otieno for DSW.