Following the health worker’s capacity-building training for Butaleja on comprehensive integrated adolescent-friendly sexual reproductive health rights and services to young people using the harm reduction approach, the Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum (UYAHF) also convened two separate Young Mothers Forums (YMF) to educate young mothers on comprehensive safe motherhood.

YMF is an innovative strategy used by UYAHF to bring together young mothers, pregnant girls, girls at high risk of early and unwanted pregnancies, and young fathers to learn about key concepts of safe motherhood such as family planning, antenatal care, health facility deliveries, postnatal care, safe abortion, post-abortion care, breastfeeding, nutrition, sexual and gender-based violence, and mother-to-child transmission elimination, among others.

The forums were held under the objectives of; creating a safe space for young mothers and pregnant teenagers to dialogue, share experiences and discuss challenges they face when accessing SRHR services, learn from health experts on the key concepts and important elements of ensuring safe motherhood and child health care, and to increase uptake of essential SRHR and services like contraception, safe abortion, and health facility deliveries.

The forums held on June 22nd, 2022, separately at Nabiganda health center IV and Nakwasi health center III, were attended by 97 participants (50 and 47) respectively, including pregnant adolescent girls, teenage girls (in and out of school), young mothers, young fathers, peer educators, village health teams, among others.

Ms. Leah Grace Oketcho, the harm reduction project coordinator for UYAHF, while opening the forum at Nabiganda Health Center IV, she encouraged participants to be free and open about issues that they need to know about.

“This is a free space. Don’t fear anyone because all of you here came to learn.” Our facilitators have a lot to teach you, but this will be effective if you also open up and ask questions, “Sketch added.

According to Sister Nyamwenge Beza, an enrolled midwife at Nabiganda Health Center IV and a facilitator during the training, most of the issues raised are myths and misconceptions about contraception use.

“They presented several myths about the use of family planning.” One of the young mothers stated that if you go for family planning, you will become barren and will never be able to give birth again, which is not true, ” she added

Sister Akurut Eveline, a midwife at Nakwasi Health Center III, revealed that during the session, one of the young fathers said that when the IUD is used, it hurts a man’s penis during sexual intercourse.

Hasahya Winnie, a pregnant adolescent in attendance, claims that their male counterparts don’t want to use condoms, claiming that the oil on the condom causes cancer in women.

While discussing the importance of antenatal and perinatal care during one of the sessions at Nabiganda Health Center IV, most young mothers claim that health workers are unfriendly to them, something that makes them fear coming for antenatal care.

“When you go to the health facility, the nurses are harsh and judgmental. They shout at you and say words like “who told you to get pregnant at such an early age, which makes us feel out of place,” revealed one of the trainees.

According to health workers, the forum has provided young people with an opportunity to learn, understand, and clarify issues that they were previously unaware of, as well as debunk misconceptions.

Migamba Alice, one of the young mothers, stated that she initially thought family planning was all about contraceptives, but thanks to the training, she has learned that family planning is the ability to space and plan for your child’s birth. She further notes that she has understood the various family planning methods and how they work.

Another young mother, Nafuna Fatima, says that when she returns to the community, she will encourage her fellow friends who have not yet become pregnant but are engaging in sex to use condoms so that they don’t become pregnant at a young age.

Were Sablake, a young father, said he will not only begin accompanying his wife for antenatal care but will also encourage his fellow men in the village to do the same.

The forum was also characterized by practical demonstrations on how to correctly use a condom, starting right from checking the expiry date to dressing it. The session was facilitated by Mr. Haruna Musa, the Communication and Innovations officer at UYAHF, who encouraged the participants to ensure that they check the expiry date of a condom each time they intend to use it.

He practically demonstrated to the participants the process of using a condom, including checking the expiry date, feeling the air in the sachet, and how to properly tear the sachet to avoid damaging the latex, which he later asked the participants to also demonstrate.

The young mothers expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to learn, and they have committed to using the knowledge gained from the forum to not only improve their health but also the health of those in their communities.

The health workers suggested that this training be made continuous so that young people can continue to learn and improve their lives.