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On March 13, 2023, Ruth Van Zorge, the first Secretary of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Uganda, accompanied by SRHR Policy Officer Judith Adokorach, made a special monitoring visit to the Power to Youth (PTY) program in Mbale City, one of the program’s areas of implementation.

The visit aimed to gain insight into the program’s approaches, implementation, and monitoring, including the small grants initiative, progress made, youth involvement, and collaboration with community-based organizations and district departments in addressing key PTY issues like teenage pregnancy, child marriage, and sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) in the city.

Starting with a courtesy call to the Mbale Network of Young People Living with HIV (MNYPA), one of the organizations implementing PTY’s small grant initiative, the team engaged in open discussions about implementation modalities, strengths, gaps, and needed support for the initiatives, focusing primarily on the PTY thematic areas. They emphasized collaboration with other partners and shared project outputs for 2023.

As part of their visit, the team participated in a community dialogue on male engagement in combating harmful practices like SGBV, organized by PTY community champions in Jewa town council, Bufumbo Sub-County. They listened to impactful stories from community members, highlighting the positive transformations brought about by the PTY project.

Aramazani Gidudu, a community member, shared how the project had influenced positive change, including increased awareness about ending child marriage, promoting girls’ education, and reducing SGBV cases. He emphasized the role of men and religious leaders in condemning violence against women and advocating for peace in homes.

“In Mbale, our subcounty used to be leading in child marriage because we as a community did not value education, and for the girl child and intern, we witnessed a lot of gender-based violence,”  Gidudu stated in the local Lumasaba language.

He adds that following the regular sessions facilitated by the PTY project and with the support of the youth advocates, a lot has changed. He explains that many girls are now reporting cases of unintended child marriages to the police. “For us the men and religious leaders, we are holding several discussions in our respective spaces like drinking joints, mosques, and churches condemning men who beat women and encouraging peace in homes, and also encouraging families to take girls to school instead of marrying them off,”  He added.

While speaking at the engagement, the first SRHR secretary expressed excitement about the work that the community members are doing to ensure family stability and end child marriages. Van Zorge applauded the community for their full support of the PTY program and encouraged them to continue engaging in the program’s activities and championing the fight against the SRH challenges faced by the subcounty.  

The visit underscored diplomatic support for grassroots initiatives like PTY in promoting health and gender equality.