How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your work as a youth champion?
The COVID-19 pandemic is so pressing for us young people, especially for the empowered youths who are conducting SRHR education at the county level. Now that there are no social gatherings, a lot of young people don’t have jobs. No activities are going on. Our work was to reach the community and share SRHR information and services that people need. COVID-19 makes it so hard and hinders progress for us around here.
As an empowered young man, I can access services at the facilities, but youths living in rural areas cannot get this information. For them to access these services, they need us because we are trained in capacity building and SRHR and how to provide them with the right information through peer education and in youth forums.
There has been a significant change since the beginning of the pandemic in our ability to advocate for the provision of information and services to youths and women. We advocate at the county level for increased budgeting for family planning. We also send out information, advice and counselling services on social media platforms such as WhatsApp.
What is it like to be a youth champion?
Being a youth champion makes me feel good. My role is to speak on behalf of people who can’t air out their grievances and get help themselves, and I know that something great will come out of this.
DSW has helped in conducting health education for young people; they also offer financial support for us. We get training from DSW, and this allows us to reach the community and listen to the issues. We have health facilities that help in issuing family planning and contraceptive services. We fight for young people to access these services.
What has changed in your community since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Gender-based violence (GBV) has increased because most people are at home. We need support from the government to help cater to these issues. In our county, there are cases of GBV because people don’t know their rights and they need adequate support to achieve their dreams.
Right now, we need to increase access to contraceptives and family planning information and services particularly to help those in poverty. Family planning also reduces domestic violence since one can manage his or her family and life will be okay.
We can eliminate teenage pregnancies in the community by empowering the people, the youth champions and the government. As a youth champion, I believe access to information is critical. The future is bright but, in this situation, we need to come with a strategy that will help to get information out virtually.
Douglas Mutwiri is a youth champion from Meru County trained under a project called SHAPE supported by DSW to conduct advocacy work. He is also a member of the organisation Youth and Women Advocacy Network (YWAN). Photos and interview conducted by Brian Otieno for DSW.