“Transforming education”, is what this year`s International Youth Day (12th August 2019) is all about.

In Kampala, this day took form in the International Youth Day Marathon at Makerere University`s Freedom Square. The marathon welcomed everyone, including students, policymakers, and people with special needs such as pregnant women and people with disabilities.

The International Youth Day is centered around the effort to make education more accessible for all youth, as it was mentioned in goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

Quality Education plays an indispensable role in achieving good health, poverty eradication, and gender inequality. Many youth-focused organizations, fighting to achieve these goals, were represented on this event in Kampala, amongst which our own Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum.

UYAHF`s information session engaged the participants to debate around topics such as the importance of sex education, safe sex and family planning methods. Oliver Nakakande (Miss Uganda 2019, who joined our group discussion) brought up the fact that schools should focus more on sex education, instead of abstinence as a method to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Some of the participants on the youth day Marathon

Believing otherwise would show a lack of insight in the dynamic and informed character of the current adolescent generation. Further, the participants described `safe sex‟ generally as protected sex, mentioning the importance of the correct use of contraceptive methods.

Next, to this, Patrick Mwesigye (UYAHF`s founder) stressed the importance of consent and communication when it comes to safe sex. When it comes to family planning and protection against STI`s and STD`s, it`s essential to know your partner`s status, he says. Contrary to the dominant stereotype that men initiate sex and women consent and follow,

Patrick emphasized that ‘both partners have the right to freely express their choice in sexual matters. Safe sex is not only about contraceptive methods but also about respect for each other`s choices and the equal power of negotiation between partners, your voice is your power!”.

How is this debate linked to the importance of education, one might ask? According to Patrick Mwesigye, there is a teenage pregnancy rate of 25% in Uganda and this pregnancy will limit young girls‟ chances to access quality education.

The UYAHF dream team that represented at the marathon

A student of Kawala High School, joining the information sessions of other organizations at the event, also emphasized that the stigma around pregnancy and menstruation in schools. Menstruation often is perceived as unclean and pregnant girls are chased away and pushed towards dropping out of school. Proper sex education for young boys and girls could incite the breaking of these stigmas. Inclusive and accessible (sex) education means better information on matters such as family planning, contraception, menstruation, gender equality.

This information means better protection against societal problems such as those teenage pregnancies, gender-based and sexual violence, school dropout rates, Sexually Transmittable Diseases such as HIV and teenage marriages.

In conclusion, more safety concerning these issues means one step closer to sustainable youth development where 2019`s International Youth Day was all about!

Compiled by: Lore Roels (13/8/2019, UYAHF Office Kampala)