Some of the participants during the group discussions

Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum organized an Adolescent Health Advocacy and Accountability Round Table at Fairway hotel. The event was attended by 24 participants (F 13, M, 11). Opening remarks were made by Mr. Robert Ocaya the RHRN National Coordinator, who commended the diversity of the youth-led organizations in the room. Many of the organizations doing work around adolescent health but we don’t even know about the amazing work that they do, coming together to share how what our organizations are doing and holding ourselves accountable is a good step towards good leadership. Dr. Dinah Nakiganda the Assistant Commissioner Adolescent and School Health Division then gave an update about the Adolescent Health Policy and asked all organizations doing work around adolescent health to be involved in the process. The ADH policy is making great progress, however, she states it is sad to only know a few of the youth in the room and for us to try and involve the ministry as much as we can in our implementation.

Ms. Norah Nakyegera shared with the participants how UYAHF is engaging the adolescents and young people to ensure their involvement and well-being. UYAHF has supported various districts like Kyegegwa, Kamuli, Jinja, and Omoro to train front-line health cadres on the adolescent health package to scale up availability, access, and uptake of adolescent-friendly services. The aims being to empower and amplify the voices of young people to meaningfully participate in policy advocacy and accountability for a supportive social policy and legal environment that promotes access, availability, and uptake of quality adolescent and youth-friendly sexual reproductive health (SRH) services and information. UYAHF change champions are empowered to carry out school outreaches that seek to promote and protect the rights of adolescents and safeguard them from SGBV, stigma, unwanted pregnancies, forced marriage, and other rights violations.

The panel discussion had 5 panelists Ms. Allen Youth Equality Center, Ms. Yvonne Mpambara Reach a Hand Uganda, Mr. Patrick Segawa Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU), Ms. Annah Kukundakwe from CEHURD, and Mr. Sam Ariko from MarieStopes Uganda. Each of the panelists shared what their various organizations were doing to ensure the meaning participation of young people and how they have been rallying to advocate for improved adolescent health and well-being. They also outlined their impact on improving the health and well-being of adolescents and young people and the various projects running on adolescent health.

Ms. Allen from Youth Equality Centre shared about their YEC online radio based featuring young people. On this radio show, young people speak out to fellow young people because in order to adopt a peer-to-peer approach and make communication easier. Before any budget, young people are mobilized and informed about the budgeting process more simply. They are then informed of how the budget allocation to the health sector is going to affect their SRHR.

Ms Yvonne from Reach a Hand Uganda also shared their work. They reported running television and radio programs where young people are at the forefront and how they use these to pass on correct SRHR information from peer to peer. They also reported using celebrity icons such as Kay and Anita Fabiola to relay information on post-abortion care, since many young people look up to these celebrities. They also ran the peer educator’s academy which is in almost all the parts of the country such as West Nile, Eastern Uganda, Western Uganda, in which young people are taught the importance of SRHR and are also in a position to give out SRHR services to their peers in the community. This academy also has a USSD platform where young people can access information and certain services when they dial*258#15 they can get a menu of where you get information and where they can access certain services, get referrals from young people on issues they face.

Mr Segawa Patrick shared about PHAU’s Your Space which is a youth brand running in several districts and in the Busoga region/Jinja in particular. It aims to create demand in the community and work with a network of peer mobilizers who are trained to make referrals to those particular health facilities, carrying out sensitization around the menstrual cups in Ajumani refugee settlement as an alternative since many girls have been using menstruation pads and aren’t as cost-effective as the menstrual caps. They also created the PHAU Application, enabling young people in the community to call and ask questions and seek services such as counseling where we have councilors on the platform that promptly respond to their questions and also provide referral services especially for services on SRHR issues.

Ms. Annah shared that CEHURD runs a fully-fledged legal aid clinic and toll-free line through which they receive human rights violations reports from young people from a number of districts in which they operate. The clinic and helpline have trained community health advocates to hold their duty barriers accountable to pass by-laws and ensure that SRHR services are accessible to young people and adolescents.

Mr. Ariko Sam from MarieStopes Uganda informed the participants about the 15 centers that have been put in major towns/districts with the aim of handling family planning issues, but with a lot of touch on PAC mostly to handle the high level approaches coming through by people who have conducted unsafe abortion. They realized that a lot of adolescents fear going to public health facilities mostly those without friendly youth corners so they have about 600 mentors that operate in the different public health facilities in the country. They also run the MarieStopes Ladies group, which is a group of retired midwives in the communities. They have created drug shops and duukas which are easier for adolescents to reach out to since they know them as mussawo in the community.

Ms Mairah informed participants the SRHR alliance is made of various NGOs. They have built capacity for young people to carry out youth-led advocacy and provide platforms at the different district levels such as; having young people on the health planning committees where they meaningfully participate, have structures specifically for young people such as the youth advisory committee and it constitutes of young people from the different partner organizations and equal powers in terms of planning, budgeting and has their budget to run.

The panelists also shared what there are doing in order to address some of the challenges and potential solutions as young people try to access SRHR information and services. For example, young people in the community are trained and facilitated to go door to door and give out information on SRHR since big gatherings can no longer be held due to covid 19 pandemic, parents have a lot of influence when it comes to young people so model parents have been identified and trained on how to give out SRHR information and services to fellow parents, peer educator’s structures to ensure that they reach out to adolescents and young people mostly in rural areas with information and refer them for further SRHR services, peer young mothers especially in villages whom we use as champions to speak to their fellow young mothers on SRHR information and services, establishing helplines where adolescents can get correct SRHR information and services, running legal aid clinics, community cultural icons advocacy, holding youth-led dialogues and table talks at community levels, translating information into local languages and tapping into the already existing structures.

During the round table, recommendations were made to ensure the inclusiveness and well-being of adolescents and young people. These recommendations included; sensitization of the parents about the importance of SRHR information and services to young people in the community, talking to church leaders about preaching on the importance of SRHR so it will be easy for them to acquire knowledge about SRHR and services, coming up with videos or skits to pass on the information about SRHR, and involving people with disabilities in the different ADH programs to make sure the programs are inclusive.