Comprehensive Sexuality Education WhatsApp sessions
Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum developed strategies to continue delivering information to young people during the total lock down. Some of the strategies include having movie nights conducted by our change champions in settlement camps and adolescent quarantine centres, virtual dance parties geared to deliver correct SRHR information to adolescent who are confined in their homes, WhatsApp sessions on various topics among others. In the month of May 3 Comprehensive Sexuality Education sessions were held covering the topics of Gender Based Violence, teenage pregnancy and safe abortion.
Gender Based Violence
Since the lockdown began reports have shown an increase in the number of GBV cases across the country. According to the media report that was published on 17th April 2020 the deputy police spokesperson Polly Namaye shared that the country had recorded 328 cases. A WhatsApp session Was timely because it will provide the change champions with information on what to do when one is faced with SGBV, what hotlines to reach out too and possible options of temporary shelter they can ran to just to be in a safe environment from their perpetrators. The discussion was very interactive as we had change champions ask questions, respond to questions and share what they know about S&GBV. Ms Nivatiti Nandujja manager -women access to social justice from ActionAid Uganda, was the guest hosted on the WhatsApp group. Ms Nivatiti provided a lot of insight on how the GBV shelters operate, the various pathways one can use to report cases of S&GBV, the signs to look out for among others.
Some of the challenges highlighted were; the normalization of S&GBV among the community is the biggest contributor to this vice. In the discussions many of the young people said this has been happening for many years, majority of the people in the community prefer to use the informal pathways, which involve talking or reporting to family members, cultural leaders and religious leaders. Most of these believe in patriarchy so the cases are not reported but rather asked that they talk these issues out, many people look at S&GBV as an issue of women against men among others.
Recommendations made included calling out the perpetrators on various platforms so that they are exposed to the public, involve the community in to the social buying in of putting an end to GBV. Raise awareness about the dangers of S&GBV, provide economic empowerment opportunities for the women especially during the post COVID-19 period among others.
As the country is confined in total lockdown due to covid-19 to contain the spread, young people have faced challenges in accessing Sexual reproductive services information and services. One of our change champions shared their personal story of being a teenage mother which sparked off the day’s topic. The topic was chaired by a health worker who shared the causes, effects of teenage pregnancy, challenges and its reporting procedures among others.
Teenage pregnancy is caused by some parents who think girls are brides and lack of information about SRHR worsens it so the important thing is to educate children as early as 10 years on how to appreciate their bodies as they grow up. This will enable them to make informed decisions about their lives and bodies.
Some of the recommendations raised were passing SRHR information to adolescents is key, sensitization of parents about the importance of education and dangers of child marriages so that they stop looking at their daughters as wealth, empower the reporting mechanisms so that they respond to such concerns in community and involvement of male/boy engagement is key.
The discussion was sparked by one of our change champions who shared their experience while interacting with the adolescents in the community. When the topic started most of the thought it was a useless topic to handle until someone shared their personal story. “I got pregnant in P.7 when I was raped, my parents allowed me to do safe abortion and continue with school. The nurse denied me and I decided to use herbs which almost took my life” one of the members testified (names withheld).
Although the law prohibits abortion the reality on ground is that adolescents and young people are devising means to deal with their unwanted pregnancies. The health worker came in to handle the topic as many of the change champions had little knowledge about it and what the law states. The health worker shared that in Uganda where abortion is legally restricted and only allowed under circumstances of saving the mother. The law and policies are unclear and often interrupted wrongly making it difficult for both community and the health workers to interpret this accurately. The health worker shared the dangers of unsafe abortion, importance of accessibility of SRH services, youth friendly corners among others.
Some of the recommendations that came out included the need to raise awareness on sexual and reproductive health rights to girls and sexuality education, change in the attitude of the health centres, provide safe spaces for adolescents to share their experiences among others.