Participants of the Ni-Yetu outreach session during snack time
As part of the on-going Ni-Yetu project led by Plan International Uganda, which we have discussed here and here, in early April the Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) team visited a peer-led outreach session led by a pair of trained peer educators (PE’s) Charlotte and Abel, in the Nakawa Division of Kampala. This was one of fourteen sessions focusing on youth sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), gender-based violence prevention, social protection, and life skills building. All these are critical pieces to ensuring Ugandan youth become responsible and empowered citizens and leaders in their communities who take ownership of the challenges they face and act as agents of change in facilitating solutions.
GUIU Program Officer, Clare, was instantly impressed by the work of Charlotte and Abel who GUIU selected out of 30 youth leaders in their division to educate and empower their peers. Not only were the peer educators tasked with training their peers they also had to mobilize youth to attend the sessions. The time and effort required to mobilize the youth participants in Nakawa was considerably more, compared to other divisions, where the PEs were able to include their youth group members as participants. For this pair however, they had to engage on canvassing, and go door-to-door in the community to attract participants since the members of their youth groups were over 24-years old, and therefore not eligible to join the outreach sessions. It took much time but was necessary in order to converse with the parents of the youth and convince them that their children would be safe during the sessions, and would be learning valuable information. This was a great learning experience for our Ni-Yetu peer educators. It was also a chance for the PEs to witness the living conditions of the youth in their community, where they found that many of the youth were suffering from severe cases of food insecurity, going on without much more than one meal a day.
The PEs (Abel on far left and Charlotte on far right) with some of the participants outside the Mbuya Reach Out Center
One particularly striking case was Waswa’s story, a 19-year-old disabled boy. He was orphaned at a young age when both his parents died, and as a result he had never attended school. When the PEs met him in his home, he was living with his older sister who was worried that he wouldn’t be able to attend the sessions because he can’t walk across the road alone. The PEs assured her to allow him to attend, and for a few sessions, Abel helped him by coming to his home and accompanying him across the street. Afterwards, Waswa was able to come on his own.
Waswa outside the peer-led outreach session
At the training session Waswa was overjoyed, iterating that since joining he has “appreciated the friendships and sharing his story with the others.” He was given the opportunity to leave his home and meet other youth, while learning valuable life skills and SRHR information.
Despite facing several challenges during the outreach session at Mbuya Reach Out Center, youth participants expressed that it is a continual learning experience; and that they will share their knowledge and best practices and encourage their fellow youth to join the next cohort.
We will keep you updated on the peer educator progress and the outreach sessions as the Ni-Yetu project continues! GUIU is so proud of their dedication and enthusiasm for the project and the empowerment of Ugandan youth!