Adolescent girls and boys in Tororo district have called upon stakeholders, duty bearers, and reproductive health service providers to prioritize and respect their rights, choice, and decisions while they seek Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services and information at different levels.

This call was made during a Youth Parliament (YP) organized by Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum (UYAHF) at the Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) Youth center in the district on June 2nd, 2022. It was held under the theme “Empowering young people to speak out and demand their right to accurate health information and confidential quality SRHR information and services.”

The YP brought together 90 young people from both primary and secondary schools, young mothers, young fathers, and pregnant adolescent girls, among others, to share their experiences, and discuss the key SRHR challenges they face, suggest solutions, and challenge the various key stakeholders on their roles in addressing these challenges.

While officially opening the YP, Mr. Odoi Richard, the municipal inspector of schools -Tororo, welcomed the participants and encouraged them to feel free to share their challenges and also suggest ways forward.

“This platform is entirely yours; we are here to listen and then, later, with your suggestions, collectively come up with solutions to some of the issues that you will raise. We expect you to point out the challenges and also say what you think should be done,” Mr. Odoi emphasized.

He further lauded UYAHF for the innovative way of engaging young people through the YP, noting that this approach gives more opportunity for free interaction and participation of young people while interfacing with the duty bearers.

The session kicked off with a plenary session where a representative from each category of young people, including primary and secondary school students, peer educators, young mothers, and pregnant adolescent girls, pointed out key challenges and barriers to accessing SRHR services and information.

While giving her submission in a heated debate, Akoth Ruth, a young mother, explained that stigma from health workers is still the major challenge they face when they go to health facilities to seek services.

“When you go to a health facility for services, they look at you as very young to know certain information, especially on family planning (FP) and some of them harshly send you away.” She added

The students pointed out that there is a lack of confidentiality among teachers and nurses at school. They claimed that when they share their issues with the senior female teachers, it ends up spreading to the whole school.

“Most of us at school are afraid to share our challenges with senior female teachers or nurses because when they sit in the staff room, they discuss you, and when a given teacher comes to class, they make it a topic, and you end up getting ashamed,” revealed Lakisa Grace Okot, a student of Tororo Girls’ School.

Among other key issues presented are inaccessibility of services, demand for money by health workers from young people to provide services, unavailable services, delays in the provision of services, lack of information about SRHR and services, and lack of privacy at health facilities, among others.

During the activity, the pupils and students from Rock View School and Tororo Girls School also presented educative poems on the need to keep girls in school and plays on key SRHR issues.

The district officials pledged to beef up their efforts in following up with health workers from government health facilities that request money from young people while providing services at government health facilities.

The municipal inspector of schools also committed to convening a meeting with the various school representatives to see how they can come up with plans to institute training on sexuality education in schools for teachers, students, and pupils while working together with other development partners, including CSOs that handle areas of reproductive health.