Over the course of last week, our youth advocacy change champions had the opportunity to take part in a story telling workshop meant to build their capacities and confidence in telling and using their stories to advocate for change. The strategies they learned will help them offer human faces and reality to their advocacy engagement as we continue to address key SRHR and SGBV issues faced by girls and women in Kyaka II refugee settlement and Kyegegwa as a whole.  As a result, these skilled Youth Advocacy Change Champions will be empowered to become actors of change that will be instrumental in reaching the objectives of the project.The fight to end teenage pregnancy and child marriage is a global call that has been reiterated in various global and regional conventions and declarations.

In response, the government of Uganda through the Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development launched the National Strategy to end Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy in 2015. In the strategy Uganda envisions a society free from child marriages and teenage pregnancies with a goal of ending child marriage and teenage pregnancy for prosperity and social economic transformation.The strategy commits to strengthening technical and practical capacity of key actors in the protection and promotion of the rights of children and adolescents to effectively influence national budgeting and planning processes and to have standardized and coordinated advocacy and programmatic approaches for child protection at national and district levels..

Teenage pregnancy is pregnancy in girls aged 10-19. Latest data places the rate of teenage pregnancy at 25% for girls who are pregnant or have ever had a baby. According to the health data from Kyegegwa Health Centre III, 54.4% of all ANC visits are from adolescent mothers. This prevalence is mainly influenced by the high number of teenage pregnancies in and around the refugee settlement Kyaka II, located in Kyegegwa district. The teenage pregnancy rate is alarmingly high among this population in Kyegegwa and it robs girls’ opportunities to take control of their future and realize their full potential.

Additionally, many girls in Uganda continue to face harmful social cultural practices which compromises their quality of life, health, dignity and well-being. Early and forced child marriages continue to affect a large proportion of adolescent girls in Uganda. A 2017 UNICEF report stated that Uganda has the 16th highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world.  In 2015 UNFPA Uganda data indicated that 1 in every 2 girls is married before age 18, 10% of women aged 20-24 report being married before age 15 while 40% of women of age 20-24 report being married by age 18. Having finalized the process of recruiting 20 Youth Advocacy Change Champions,  UYAHF offers continuous empowerment to these Youth Advocacy Change Champions to advocate for a supportive social, legal and policy environment that promotes access to comprehensive SRHR services and protect the rights of girls.

Mr Natuhweera Benson officially opens up the workshop and makes a note on the importance of youth engagement

The workshop was officiated by the community engagements lead of Kyaka II settlement, Mr Natuhweera, as well as the acting District Health Officer of Kyegegwa district, Mr Businge Lawrence. Mr Benson emphasized the need for more youth engagement at the settlement since it is often that issues to do with SRHR for young people are often side stepped for food and protection. He therefore commended UYAHF for their focus on young people and encouraged the champions to continue to strive to use innovative methods like story telling in their advocacy. Additionally, he pointed out the fact that although, as the camp management, they have tried to offer a space for young people to engage from, but this space is not utilized due to the lack of resources and stocking of the youth centre.

The workshop was also facilitated by SAVE THE CHILDREN, where the champions were engaged in understanding key concepts of SGBV, how to address them and how to report on them. As a key outcome, the youth advocacy change champions drafted and shared their individual stories and refined their skills in using stories for change. They also had the opportunity to exercise their skills during a community engagement with young people in Sweswe, Kyaka II settlement. During this engagement, it was evidenced that young people in the settlement have a grave need for correct information on SRHR and requested to have further engagements.

Ms Faridah Luanda, presents her developed story to the rest of the change champions.