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Peer Education & Youth Leadership with the Ni-Yetu Project!

[Selected peer educators with GUIU Program Officer, Clare Tusingwire]

Last week Monday, February 1st, 2016, Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) conducted its first activity as the lead CSO (civil society organization) implementing the three-year Ni-Yetu project in Kampala, Uganda. At St. Jude Primary School Naguru, GUIU organized the first meeting to select peer educators and introduce the project to all participants. As previously announced, the 'Ni-Yetu’ Youth Project aims to promote sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and prevention of gender based violence (GBV) among young people. Ni-Yetu is a Swahili word for ‘it is ours’, and was carefully selected by youth representatives to demonstrate their identification with and ownership of the program. Pioneered by Plan International Uganda, the project is being implemented in five districts of Uganda, namely Tororo, Kamuli, Lira, Alebtong, and Kampala.

This project aims to enhance youth leadership through using the peer education model to disseminate knowledge around SRHR and GBV. Peer education is an approach to health promotion, in which selected and trained community members are supported to promote health-enhancing change among their peers.

Thus, the first activity of the project was to select peer educators from each division of Kampala to receive training in SRHR and then carry out community dialogues with this new knowledge and information. At this meeting, participants gathered to introduce themselves and shared their fears and expectations that they developed when they were contacted to join the project. GUIU Program Officers then made a presentation to explain what it entails to join 'Ni-Yetu' and the opportunities that come along with the program. Various presentations were made by GUIU, including one on the expected approach and roles for peer educators, as well as an orientation on child protection and the basic code of conduct.

[Suzan, one the chosen peer educators making a presentation about the role of peer educators]

Why engage youth as peer educators in this project?

  • Young people appreciate and are positively influenced by a peer-led intervention if it is well-designed and properly supervised

  • Serving as a peer educator provides a challenging, rewarding opportunity to young people to develop their leadership skills, gain the respect of their peers, and improve their own knowledge base and skills

  • It can foster fulfilling relationships between adults and young people

  • It can give girls legitimacy to talk about sex without the risk of being stigmatized as sexually promiscuous, particularly when peer-led activities take place in single-sex groups

  • Peer education has had a positive effect on reported attitudes toward persons living with HIV/AIDS

  • Peer educators have shown in some cases to be more effective than adults in establishing norms and changing attitudes related to sexual behavior

  • Peer educators and adult-led education can complement each other - the combined condition can reap greater gains in information, motivation, and behavior

[Participants discussing their ideas of the role of peer educators]

The importance of young people being directly engaged on all levels in ranging programs, projects, and intiatives that concern them has been a crucial topic within the development landscape for some time - commonly known as giving them a 'seat at the table' - particularly in relation to including young women on issues that directly involve and affect them in their daily lives; not just when it comes to SRHR, but in all elements of sustainable development and well-being. Gaining the opportunity to assume roles as leaders, planners and decison-makers early in life, often makes such initiatives more meaningful and impactful since young people intimately know the issues that most impact them and how to communicate most effectively with their peers. At the same time, the peer education model also empowers young people by giving them a more enhanced understanding of issues and strategies to create their own solutions. Internationally marked days such as International Youth Day (August 12th this year), are reminders of how empowering youth to become leaders is of integral importance to sustainable development and to creating a more gender equal world. Today, youth under the age of 30 make up more than half of the world’s population. The continent of Africa has the youngest population than anywhere else in the world, and this has been highlighted as a potential crisis and 'ticking time bomb' in the face of unemployment, or alternatively, flagged as a great opportunity.

GUIU is proud to be an organization for young people and led by young people. The Ni-Yetu Project activities perfectly compliments our vision to create leadership opportunities for young people to become advocates for gender equality. At the end of this meeting, GUIU selected 15 peer educators out of the 30 that will join the training and during the next week, GUIU will select the remaining 15 peer educators. Stay tuned for more details and progress on this youth-led project GUIU has the opportunity to be a part of and contribute to!

Please feel free to share your thoughts below on the Ni-yetu project and the peer education model, and why you think it's benefical for youth to be directly involved in projects and initiatives that concern their futures!

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