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It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination: Our Story of a Partnership with Plan International Ugan

In December 2015, Girl Up Initiative Uganda received amazing news- after a tough selection process by Plan International Uganda, we were selected as the district-CSO in Kampala for the nation-wide Ni-Yetu Youth Program, a three and a half-year participatory youth-led program to promote youth sexual and reproduction health and rights (SRHR) and prevention of gender-based violence (GBV). When GUIU officially announced our partnership with Plan International Uganda, we had no idea of the tremendous impact this project would have on our internal capacity, local visibility and overall growth of all our programs. In the past seven months (December 2015- June 2016), GUIU has met all our targets while keeping the voice and engagement of youth at the centre of all activities.

We are forever grateful to Plan International Uganda for believing in us as a small (but growing) young-women led organization that has the dedication and ability to undertake a program focusing on youth engagement.

Youth-Centered Activities

Our Ni-Yetu team, consisting of Program Officers, Clare and Allan, and supported by our ED, Monica, and Accountant, Jane, were able to complete all proposed activities within the timeline. These activities target and work with youth and adolescents ages 13-24 years. The following activities were successfully implemented by GUIU during Year 1 of the Ni-Yetu Youth Program:

1. Mobilized youth and sub-county leaders for meetings to introduce the project and selected 30 out-of-school peer educators (PEs) from each division in Kampala District.

2. Facilitated peer-led outreach sessions led by a pair of trained PEs. Each pair conducted group interactive outreach sessions with on topics ranging from SRH, social protection, and life skills building. In total, the Kampala PEs conducted 420 sessions with a total reach of 847 adolescents (441 girls and 406 boys) between the ages of 13-24 years. Thanks to this activity, the PEs reported improved facilitation skills, improved self-esteem and body image, and increased dedication to the youth in their communities. The PEs have provided support to the youth through mentoring them and also being a shoulder they can lean on during the hard times.

3. Supported two youth drama groups to conduct 18 awareness sessions in central points (trading centers, near schools, drinking areas, community centers, etc.) in the urban slums of Kampala. The drama groups used the forum theatre approach to promote participation among the audience and the theme focused on issues that were of particular concern for the communities- drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancy. These outreach sessions reached over 1,797 community members (947 female and 850 male).

4. Carried out one integrated SRH/GBV youth-centered service camp for 402 youth (222 girls and 180 boys). GUIU partnered with different health service providers and the child and family protection unit of the police force so that both in-school and out-of-school youth received useful correct SRHR and GBV information. There were a number of services offered which included, HIV Counseling and Testing where 55 adolescents received this service.

5. Selected and mobilized 40 anti-GBV male change agents from selected groups like PEs, youth group members, parents, faith and opinion leaders.

6. Facilitated community dialogues for 133 men in all five divisions of Kampala led by 40 anti-GBV male change agents. The change agents chose strategic locations to conduct the community dialogues, such as an area where men playing Ludo and gamble, a boda-boda stage, at a church, at a car mechanic garage, and at a local drinking spot. The discussion focused on what should be boys’ and men’s’ role in preventing teenage pregnancy.

7. Conducted one cascading advocacy training of 30 youth peer educators and 11 local council leaders to spearhead advocacy efforts for youth sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and protection. All participants walked away from the training with a deep understanding of how local officials and youth leaders can work together as advocates for gender equal and violent-free communities.

8. Facilitated periodic review/coordination meetings together with the District Youth Networks.

Internal Capacity Building

A significant part of the Ni-Yetu Youth Program is to strengthen local CSOs, such as GUIU, through internal capacity building support. This initiative by Plan International Uganda has greatly benefited GUIU in all our work. The added support has allowed us to build our internal systems and further professionalize our work. Our staff members have increased their skills and knowledge through various capacity building trainings on topics such as monitoring and evaluation, strategic planning and leadership, and the participatory learning approach. These trainings have been especially useful for our growth in terms of putting more operational resources in place, which is crucial for us to attract more donors and enhance the impact of our programs.

Additionally, through the Ni-Yetu Youth Program, GUIU has been able to purchase much needed resources for our work, including, among others, furniture and laptops. This support has been essential in giving us the tools needed to complete our work the most efficiently.

Local Visibility

As the district-CSO for Kampala District, GUIU has gained immense visibility through the Ni-Yetu Youth Program. We have been able to create important relationships with community development officers, youth officers, local council leaders, youth leaders, male change agents, community members, police officials, and health service providers so that we are a well-known organization in the community. When our staff walks through the streets of Kampala in their GUIU shirts, people have started to recognize us and thank us for the work that we are doing. We would not have this reception without the opportunity granted to us by Plan International Uganda to join the impactful and exciting Ni-Yetu Youth Program.

Beyond the increased visibility by local partners, this partnership has enabled GUIU to attract new donors who grasp the work that can be accomplished by the team at GUIU. For instance, GUIU is pleased to share that we have just signed a partnership with the Segal Family Foundation to strengthen and expand our Adolescent Girls Program and Young Women’s Economic Empowerment Program. Donors understand that with the resources, GUIU can reach thousands of youth and adolescents to empower them to be peer leaders, understand their rights and SRHR, and prevent GBV.

GUIU has no doubt that our inclusion in the Ni-Yetu Youth Program has had a huge positive effect on our ability to expand our activities, improve our capacity and increase our visibility. It has put us at a level where we can attract more donors to support our various programs and has empowered our staff with the confidence to keep going and never give up on our dreams. We have been overwhelmed with the success of the Ni-Yetu Youth Program to reach thousands of youth and change agents to advance youth SRHR and prevent new cases of GBV, and are so thankful to be part of this change. Year 1 laid a strong foundation, and now GUIU looks forward to the next two years of the Ni-Yetu Youth Program to engage even more youth! Ni-Yetu OYEEEEEE!