On 5th March 2020, a group of 8 change champions held a school outreach program at Progressive secondary school in Kitintale and discussed various topics such as HIV, menstruation, stigma and gender equality.

The first session was on HIV, AIDS and stigma. Here the change champions shared with the students the various ways in which one can acquire HIV and also how they can use preventive methods avoiding the spread of HIV and new infections. The change champions discovered that students had so many myths around HIV such as you can tell someone who has HIV and AIDS by looking at them, mosquitoes spread HIV, if one is on treatment, they can’t spread the virus and all these were demystified during the session. The young boys and girls living a positive life were encouraged not to have pity upon themselves since they have so many opportunities ahead of them just like those that don’t have HIV and AIDS. The change champions informed the students that HIV related stigma and discrimination have negative impacts on the provision and use of health services particularly among young people living with HIV. Young people living with HIV need to be empowered to take up leadership roles in the response to HIV and AIDS which will encourage more young people to live a stigma free life.

Teenage pregnancy and child brides were the second topic; the change champions informed the students about their disadvantages. Teenage pregnancies have several negative health outcomes such as premature births, depression, delivering at low birth weight, infant mortality rate among others. Young girls were encouraged to be empowered with a lot of information that will guide them when making choices and decisions. This information will prevent them from getting pregnant at an early age, even though they might be pushed by peer pressure and other circumstances, they should be able to be assertive and express a clear NO. The students were encouraged to abstain because they have more years ahead of them out of school.

The third session was menstruation and gender equality. They started off by defining gender as socially constructed norms and hence went further to explain the different format that gender takes on them for example denial of females to ride bicycles, do science subjects and eat chicken among others. The change champions informed the students that Gender Based Violence has a huge impact on the existence of gender inequality. Gender-based violence in families contributes to significant economic burden to Uganda’s economy and the need to fight the vice for the benefit of all Ugandans. They defined gender-based violence as any form of sexual, physical, economic, psychological, injury or threat to harm directed against a person on the basis of their gender. They discussed the different forms of gender-based violence such as sexual abuse, economic abuse and emotional abuse and hence told them that abuse can happen to them or to people they know and staying silent about abuse can make that abuse continue and even get worse. Therefore, we should report abusive behavior and seek counselling as soon as possible also encouraged the students to have role models and teachers they can approach in case they are being oppressed. The change champions said that gender-based violence is caused by an imbalance of power and gender inequality and hence the need to break the gap between the women and men boys and girls in communities.

The change champions shared about body changes for boys and girls which can start between 10 and 15 years. This is what they call puberty in which they might experience a range of social, emotional and physical changes. It is very natural and normal as a boy and girl to go through these changes and the need to embrace them! The change champions also went further to talk about menstruation and the different ways to combat these stigmas. They talked about the importance and the need to have more male role models or champions on board so as to combat the stigma associated with menstruation. They taught the boys on how to help the girls in the course of their menstruation and also the need to combat stigma related to menstruation.

Menstrual hygiene products on display ahead of the menstruation hygiene management session

The last session was on the Reform 53 campaign which Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum is campaigning for. Patricia who talked to the students about the importance and the need for gender equality to be put into place and encouraged them to be supportive towards their counterparts. She talked about the need for youth services, programs and education to be designed and delivered in an equitable way that is responsive to their diversities and hence advocating for reform53. Reform 53 together for legal equality campaign which is a six months advocacy campaign calling for all governments of the 53 countries to reform discriminatory laws. The campaign will feed in to the CHOGM campaign 2020 that will be held in Rwanda where common wealth countries will be asked to commit to reforming laws that discriminate against women and girls. UYAHF encourages young people to join our campaign, get together and stand for our rights and together we are unbeatable force that can compel our governments to reform discriminatory Laws.

Students taking part in the reform 53 campaign.