Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum in partnership with Planned Parenthood Global conducted a 2 (two) day capacity-building workshop for young people from the districts of Tororo, Butaleja, Mbale, and Kampala on SMART Advocacy and Communication in Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
The two days capacity building workshop held at Royal Suites Bugolobi Hotel on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th July 2022 brought together 30 (thirty) participants including 14 boys and 16 girls.
The objective of the workshop was to Support young people to hold accountable the government of Uganda on its commitments to a supportive social, policy, and legal environment for young people’s SRHR by Dec 2022 following the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) action plan. This action plan was developed by 130 young people who attended the Post ICPD25 National Youth Summit at Hotel Africana in Kampala on 15th December 2021. At the youth summit, the young people discussed and assessed Uganda’s specific youth commitments for ICPD25, FP2030, and the National Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan (CIP).
During the workshop, the young people shared their understanding of advocacy and how to make it SMART especially if they want to meaningfully engage the relevant stakeholders and hold them accountable for prior unfulfilled commitments or even promote change of a policy or challenge a law concerning issues affecting them, especially in relation to their SRHR.
“For meaningful youth participation and engagement to take effect, young people need to have information and facts on SRHR issues affecting young people to be able to challenge harmful practices in their communities,” Leah Oketcho, a facilitator, commented.
Norah Nakyegera, the Advocacy and campaigns Officer, UYAHF mentioned that the key avenues for SMART Advocacy work include networking, promoting legislative change, media, and counteracting opposition if the change is to be realized.
She added that clarity and conciseness are important aspects in the progressive process of developing a SMART Advocacy strategy.
Existing norms and values in the societies were highlighted as aspects that are sticky and most often dictate the livelihoods of young people and how these are working around to influence change.
Dr. Ben Kibirige, a senior SRHR advocate supported the young people to understand the key concepts of their SRHR. Different methods like group discussions, debates, skits, and role-play were engaged to demonstrate the relationship between norms, values, and issues of one’s SRHR.
The Chinese whisper game was employed during the session on communication in SRHR to clearly demonstrate the impact information sent out has, how fast it travels, and the importance of clear and accurate information.
“Accurate health information must be sought from qualified professionals and not peers who often circulate myths,” Oketcho said
“We must interest ourselves in research if we are to be taken seriously and consequently have the ability to participate meaningfully on various existing platforms. Packaging of the information also matters as it affects its reception to the intended audience,” she added.
By the end of the workshop, the young people committed to using the lessons learned and applying them in advocacy concerning issues affecting them. They also appreciated that advocacy is a joint effort venture but not limited necessarily to any specific individual.
“Anyone with a passion for an issue or cause can be an advocate as long as you have a cause and the will to be one,” Phiona Namutosi, a young person from Mbale implored
The young people formed clubs that will meet regularly to address issues arising from access to SRHR services, especially at health facilities as well as referrals where need be. They also committed to conducting peer-to-peer sessions in their respective communities to share the knowledge learned with those who were not in a position to attend the capacity-building workshop
It also came out clearly that young people have the zeal to act on the issues affecting them but lack a platform and that advocacy has already taken effect however, the gap exists in proper execution.