Advocacy change champions distributing condoms to bodaboda cyclists in the community

On 6th March 2021, our advocacy change champions in Kyegegwa district carried out a community outreach for Boda Boda cyclists in Sweswe and Bukerwe zones. They reached out to 20 cyclists and 8 customers of which 2 were female.  The Boda Boda cyclists usually miss out on such programs because they are always on the move yet they can be used as ambassadors of change since they interact with various people daily and that is why our advocacy change champions opted to find them at their duty stations. The community outreaches were held at the Sweswe and Bikerwe bodaboda stages. During the community outreaches, our advocacy change champions shared information around child marriages, teenage pregnancies, family planning, and the importance of girl’s education with the various Boda Boda cyclists. The target group was timely because the biggest number of Boda Boda cyclists are responsible for the child marriages that have happened during the COVID-19 pandemic in Kyegegwa district, Kyakka II refugee settlement.  These cyclists usually have three to four women/wives in various zones.

When the girls and parents approach us they inform us that these girls are old enough on hearing this we have discussions around marriage with them. The Boda Boda cyclists shared that one of the biggest reasons they end up marrying under-aged girls is because their parents and the girls consent to them. There are high rates of poverty in Kyakka II so many families are struggling to just get through the day. Some parents are forcing these young girls to come and seduce us at the Boda Boda stages because they know that we can earn income daily.’’ They look at us as security because we will be able to look after these girls ‘’said Joseph a cyclist at Sweswe Boda Boda stage.  Civil society organizations need to develop programs that will equip girls with skills so that even if they are not in school they can transform their lives and homes.

The advocacy change champions informed the cyclists that child marriage is a global problem affecting millions of girls across the world. It is a human rights violation because it deprives those involved of education, health services, the chance to have life skills and develop their personalities, and leaves them vulnerable.  Studies show a strong linkage between child marriage and early childbirth, partly because girls are pressured to prove their fertility soon after marrying. These young girls usually have limited access to information on reproductive health or the ability to influence decision-making when it comes to family planning.

The cyclists informed the advocacy change champions that they had very little knowledge about family planning. There are so many myths and misconceptions around family planning are our wives hate to have discussions about it. The women have so much fear when it comes to acquiring family planning services, the change champions clarified the myths and misconceptions to them and they pledged to share this information with other people in the community.  After the session, the Boda Boda cyclists informed the advocacy change champions that as men condoms are the best option.  ‘’We end up having unprotected sex because condoms are expensive within the settlement for example a packet of condoms goes for UGX. 3,000’’ said one of the cyclists. They later distributed condoms to the cyclists, passengers, and people in the nearby centers. 2 boxes of condoms were left in Boda Boda offices so that the cyclists can easily access them whenever they need them. The cyclists requested our change champions to continuously put these condoms in their offices so that they can also share them with vulnerable adolescents within the community.

By the end of the community outreach, they pledged to share the acquired knowledge with their passengers and fellow bodaboda men who have missed this opportunity so that the high rates of teenage pregnancy and child marriages are reduced. They also emphasized that parents need to be a part of these conversations so that they are aware of the negative effects of teenage pregnancy and child marriages. The Boda Boda cyclists were thankful to UYHAF because usually we are left out in such discussions. ‘we always miss out on such conversations because we prioritize looking for money’ said one of the cyclists.