One of the many things we are actively working on even during this pandemic, is ensuring to keep conversations going and gather together on different topics directly and indirectly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday 23rd of April 2020, Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum in partnership with She Decides Uganda, Right Here and Right Now and Ministry of Health organized a Webinar on “Making a case for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights come to Life, amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic”.

The Webinar paid attention to these problems and tried to catalyze actions and progress for SRHR and bring back to life the  essential SRHR services  for all women and girls who need them despite the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual space was created for SRHR actors and advocates in Uganda to exchange, share information and updates on what needs to be done to keep SRHR a reality despite the crisis.

The Webinar was moderated by Apio Winnie, programme Manager of UYAHF and was attended by 89 participants (F=57, M=22). Panelists of the Webinar were Faith Kyateka, Head of Communications and Policy from Mariestopes Uganda; Nakibuka Noor Musisi, Director for Program Center for Health Human Rights and Development from CEHURD; Dr. Dinah Nakiganda, Assistant Commissioner Adolescent and School Health from Ministry of Health; Dr. Olive Sentumbwe, Family health and Population Advisor from World Health Organization Uganda; Anne Sizomu, Technical Advisor Advocacy from RHRN-IPPF and Dr. Betty Kyadondo, Director of Family Health from NPC.

The panelists shared their concern around the increase in the number of gender-based violence during the lock down, teenage and unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions in case contraceptives and health services continue to be scarce. Talking about contraceptives and the need for it to be available during this time of lock down is very important. Dr. Olive pointed out the fact that health care facilities, pharmacies and private organizations need to work together on making these contraceptives available, and that information needs to be shared on different levels in the country, especially with local leaders. A key role is for youth focused organizations to work along with other institutions in order to reach young people and provide access to SRHR services.

Another important notice was that family planning is not the biggest priority by the government yet it needs to be on top of the list in the COVID-19 measures. Problems regarding SRHR will make a great deal of long term consequences related to the pandemic, and if not responded to, these will become beyond imagination, and not even visible at first point. During the Webinar, the panelists called upon policy makers and Members of Parliament to be engaged in advocating for young people’s SRHR. We need to purposely engage and involve the parliament as regards making SRHR available for young people.

The pandemic has some opportunities for the young people since they are stuck at home, they can become key stakeholders in reaching their peers on different levels. They can be actively involved in engaging peers in their communities and be active on radio and television talk shows about various topics surrounding SRHR.

As a youth led and advocacy organization, we  continue to work on SRHR activities even in this on going lock down. In the Webinar the stakeholders shared common concerns but also actions that they are taking in order to keep SRHR alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. They brought to the participants  attention which problems are most present and what needs to be done.

Faith Kyateka, Head of Communications and Policy from Mariestopes Uganda shared their toll free line for anyone who has problems regarding SRHR. The number is available from 9-5pm and is 0800220333.