On 21st May 2021 the power to you(th) Uganda program was launched at the Hilton Garden hotel. The launch was attended by different partner organizations, media, young people, policymakers among others. Opening remarks from the Country Management Team (CMT) were given by the EASSI ED Hon. Sheila Kawamara, who emphasized their commitment to ensure that the youth are meaningfully Involved in all processes of the program but also in civic engagements on issues that concern them. She noted that in all the six districts of operation, youth will be capacitated to engage in changing their affairs. The program she said will also work through the media, state actors, and societal actors and will create more partnerships with the CSOs.

Ms. Yanga Fadana gave remarks on behalf of SONKE gender justice and reiterated the global management team’s support to the program to ensure that young people in Uganda get the necessary support to take center stage in their affairs. She presented the theory of change for the program that highlighted the different pathways that will be utilized to ensure that adolescent girls and young women from underserved communities are meaningfully included in all decision-making processes regarding key issues that the program aims to address such as harmful practices, SGBV, FGM, and unintended pregnancies among others.

Opening remarks were given by Mr. Mondo Kyateka from the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development. While launching the Country Programme, the representative from the government; Assistant Commissioner youth, Mr. Mondo Kyateka underscored the need for young people who need the power to seek knowledge through reading and research to be powerful. Mr.Mondo noted that for an advocacy program,  PtY implementing partners will need to build the oratory power and persuasion skills of the youth to enable them to influence the state actors. He reminded the youth that no one was going to give them space and listen to their voice if they don’t rise to claim for it. He said that there is no easy walk to get power to the youth. This he said is because those with power only look at youth as a source of entertainment and not sharing power with them. Mr. Mondo quoted renown Robbin Shana who once said; “You get what you work for. Have your voice, use your voice to voice the voice of the voiceless” He added that the youth need to know that participation isn’t tokenism. He called on the youth to use PtY to make a revolution on teenage pregnancies, SGBV, and harmful practices, noting that revolutions the world over are made by young people. Mr. Mondo pledged full support to the program and will delegate a specific officer of contact for PtY.

The keynote address was made by Ms.Olivia from the ministry of Health on Adolecsnet health where she made a presentation about the health situation in Uganda. She presented an overview of adolescent health issues in Uganda. The presentation demonstrated that young people below 18 make up approximately 60% of the population. The same population is affected by maternal mortality due to early childbearing. 25% of girls 15-19 have started childbearing but have a contraceptive prevalence of 10%. 18% of the girls in the same age category start sex by age 15. The health concerns facing the youth in Uganda include STIs, infant care, unsafe abortions which contribute to 25-30% of maternal deaths, harmful practices, mental health, substance abuse, inadequate care during pregnancy, accidents, occupational health, and nutrition. The presentation also highlighted the initiatives taken by the ministry to deal with the health concerns and the challenges being faced. Key among which is; working with policymakers on policies that protect young people like the sexual offenses bill. Another challenge is hiding behind cultural and religious beliefs which refuse young people access information yet end up finding this information from people and places that are uncensored.

A panel discussion on the state of youth engagement around harmful practices, SGBV, and unintended pregnancies was comprised of 4 young people. Namulindwa Sharon- a youth living with different abilities and a sex worker, Hillary Nuwamanya- a youth living with HIV, Apio Winnie- a youth SRHR advocate, and Patricia Kisakye a UYHAF change champion. The panel was moderated by the PtY Youth partner: UYAHF. The youth panel raised critical issues concerning youth participation in decision-making that included; boys and men aren’t given the space to be agents of change, girls don’t have rights over their bodies this is worsened by poor attitude to adolescent girls seeking SRH services, parents are too busy looking for income and have limited time to do their parenting roles, discrimination of young people with disabilities in programs targeting Key Population, the need to develop data that is easily understood and translated by young people is something advocates should consider among others.

Ms. Judith Adokoratch- the Policy Officer on SRHR and a representative from the Royal Dutch embassy while giving her closing remarks cautioned PtY CMT not to build new structures but work on existing efforts to sustain the advocacy momentum and complement each other’s efforts. She observed that the Dutch Embassy was supporting 25 programs in Uganda which necessitate PtY to demonstrate a strong collaboration with other programs. “PtY differs from all our other programs because it doesn’t look at young people as recipients but rather as principal partners in the program” she emphasized. She stressed that PtY must ensure that no one is left behind so that at the end of the five years, the lessons learned can be appreciated. She pointed out that the CMT needs to discuss sustainability right from the beginning. The Dutch representative requested the CMT to not only share reports but to demonstrate how the program is shaping government policy and interventions. Local ownership by the community and government should inform the CMT to alert the embassy on where bottlenecks are that need diplomatic engagements.

Young people making their submissions during the panel discussion