As part of the Ni-Yetu Youth Program in partnership with Plan International Uganda, Girl Up Initiative Uganda is increasing its youth advocacy work to foster dialogue and create change. The goal of the advocacy training was to enable youth leaders and district representatives from Kampala to spearhead advocacy efforts for youth sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and protection.
Local and youth leader participants after the Advocacy Training
Our latest training was a 2-day training held from May 14-15, led by our Executive Director, Monica Nyiraguhabwa and two members of the Uganda Youth Network (UYONET). 11 Local Council leaders from all five divisions of Kampala participated, along with our 30 young men and women peer educators. It was a lively group, that was excited to absorb the information and spread it amongst their networks.
The training focused broadly on advocacy for policy change, advocacy tools, and youth participation in advocacy. We used included lecture, drama, group discussion and brainstorming sessions to engage most effectively with the participants. The session began with a discussion on the definition of the word "advocacy" and then moved on to a more practical session to identify major advocacy issues in their communities and formulate action plans to address these issues.
For example, one group’s advocacy goal was to reduce drug abuse, criminality and school drop-out rates amongst youth aged 13-24 years. They came up with activities to reach their goal, which included holding local council meetings, conducting peer education, and using drama, music, and sports. Their local council members together with peer educators planned to lead the change over the next three years. This exercise empowered the participants with the skills needed to develop an advocacy plan with clear steps on how to achieve the desired result.
The identification of the tools used in advocacy also helped the peer educators appreciate that they were already involved in community advocacy work by engaging young people to understand the issues surrounding their sexual and reproductive health and rights. They found this training to be useful in equipping them with the skills necessary to support their work and identify issues of concern that they need to speak about and make action plans to address.
The last session focused exclusively on the importance of meaningfully youth involvement in advocacy efforts, especially related to youth policies. Peer educators learned that as young people, they have a right to voice their opinions about policy decisions that affect their lives and communities. This is the reason that the Ni-Yetu Youth Program exists - to give young people a platform for understanding their rights and lobby and demand for the full realization of these rights.
Including local council officials in the advocacy training was a crucial strategy to leverage their support to reach our aims to improve SRH outcomes and prevent GBV. They yield immense power in their local communities and if engaged well they have the ability to impact real change in their communities and support youth advocates.
In their own words they noted:
"I will go back to the community, hold a meeting, call up clan elders, bar owners, youth and parents to do role play aiming at sensitization of the young girls about the dangers of prostitution and how to overcome it in my community."
"Thank you Girl Up Initiative and Ni-Yetu team for creating awareness on issues concerning my community. Through the session, i have learnt that it is important to involve the youth in decision-making processes and especially on things that affect them."
"Bwaise is the leading crime area in Kampala district where prostitution, abortion, and robbery is at its best level. Therefore, programs that involve young people will help curb the crime rates and unhealthy practices such as drug abuse and abortions."