Young people displaying manilla cards with various messages

 

Uganda Youth and adolescent health forum traveled to these districts from 23rd to 25th of July to introduce the project to the young people, understanding their unique youth challenges, opportunities, and experiences faced in line with Family Planning as well as Gather recommendations on the project implementation and innovative youth solutions.

The venues were Adolescent Health clinic, Kyegegwa health center IV, Youth social center, kyankwanzi district, Adolescent Health clinic, Kyenjojo Health center IV. The engagement meetings involved key youth stakeholders including youth councilors, adolescent health focal persons, religious youth leaders, community development officers, district education officers, assistant district health officers, and young people and the expected outcomes were Increased involvement of young people in the design and implementation of the project and Improved knowledge and understanding of the root causes of social norms and their determinants to offering a foundation to the youth hub model and the baseline study.

In the first year, Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum, implementing the youth component of FPA, is utilizing the youth hub model to leverage the power and energy of young people as change champions challenging social norms and enhancing demand, access, and uptake of family planning services and information among adolescents and young people. The youth hub model is premised upon the notion that young people have the ability and agency to determine what best works for them and should, therefore, be involved in all processes of program design and implementation as active decision-makers, for sustainable change to occur. For this to be realized, it is therefore pertinent for young people to be consulted on the challenges, experiences, and opportunities for Family Planning. These meetings, therefore, offered a foundation for this activity and will also be a source of more information for the Baseline study to be carried out.

Other issues that were noted included;

  • The lack of IEC materials for more information
  • Lack of trained health workers to handle young people and their issues and provide correct information on FP before offering the services.
  • Lack of youth-focused spaces for example in hard to reach areas like Kyaka II refugee settlement.
  • Lack of access to affordable FP services for young people because most FP methods are carried by clinics/drug shops that offer these services at a price that young people may be unable to afford.
  • Negative social-cultural beliefs in the communities, for example, the pride attached to having many children
  • No role models of FP who the young people can learn from.
  • A lot of wrong information accessible to young people on FP. This makes it hard for them to listen since they assume that the internet is always right.
  • Expensive FP methods

The young people shared that some of the sources of information on Family planning include; Mothers and in-laws, Online, Health workers, Friends, Old people with experience. They proposed that some of the key interventions that this project can bring forth include using radio programs targeting young mothers specifically to advocate for them to go back to school and also not be ostracized in the communities. They also proposed integrating FP messaging with training on entrepreneurship as well as engaging teachers and parents in activities for sensitization.  Additionally, they suggested; Use of pictures would be another good approach of spreading information in the community; Use of community Peer educators; Involve men in family planning issues; Continuous community sensitizations; Allocate special days for youth and hear their views; Identify activities that can help youth participate freely eg games and sports, local musicians; Utilize the already existing structures in community support health centers to have youth-friendly services; Support school clubs; Support PIASCY activities in schools; Have regular workshops and seminars about FP with different stakeholders-especially decision-makers; Empower VHTs on FP.

In their closing remarks, the senior probation officer and the District Community Development Officer in Kyegegwa and Kyankwanzi respectively, applauded the project for seeking views from young people since they are riddled with a lot of challenges including teenage pregnancies, exposure to wrong information and unavailability of youth-focused health centers with trained staff to handle the youth. They encouraged young people to prioritize their lives and seek out correct information on family planning to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

The Gender Officer of Kyenjojo, in her submission, called upon the USAID-FPA team to think of life skills for the girls in the community, many youths produce children because they expect some support from men but after producing they are not helped, which makes them move on into another relationship and the cycle continues so we need to empower them with life skills that can help them live independently without relying on producing for men for support.