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Ensuring Youth-Friendly Health Services with the Hunger Project

Girl Up Initiative Uganda is pleased to announce that we had another opportunity to send one of our facilitators to lead an external training! The Hunger Project requested the support of our sexual and reproductive health (SRH) specialist, Hajara Namuyimbwa, to support the organization as a facilitator for their three-day community training workshops for health workers and village health team members to understand youth-friendly attitudes in accessing SRH services at community health centers. The Hunger Project is an organization focused on ending poverty and hunger through community empowerment and recently they joined the Her Choice program, which aims to combat child marriage through empowering girls to decide if, when and whom to marry, as well as through improving girls’ access to SRH health services.

(Photo: Community health workers discuss challenges they face in providing youth-friendly SRH services)

Most youth in Uganda do not have access to youth-friendly services at health facilities either due to a lack of youth-friendly services or knowledge of these services if they do exist. Even when youth-friendly health services are available, youth are dissatisfied with the quality of the care given by health workers, especially related to sensitive sexual and reproductive health questions. With nearly 6 in 10 young women having their sexual debut before the age of 18 and 35% of girls dropping out of school due to early marriage (UBOS and ICF, 2012), there is a critical need to provide youth and girl-friendly health services and the Her Choice program offers health workers the opportunity to discuss new ways to create safe and accessible SRH health services for youth. In response to these challenges, programs like Her Choice and Youth SRHR Service Camps offered through the Ni-Yetu Youth Program are critical to respond to this gap in services offered to youth.

Alongside other Her Choice facilitators, Hajara conducted a series of training workshops to engage health workers around questions to improve youth-friendly SRH services at the community health centers. During the training, the village health teams listened and discussed ways to foster positive perspectives towards providing youth-friendly health services. They agreed that counseling was a basic service needed to support adolescents seeking SRH services. A health worker modeled the GATHER technique: greet, ask, tell, help, explain, respect, which is used as a guide to discuss sensitive subjects, such as cases of rape. Solely offering emergency contraceptives and post-exposure prophylaxis to a rape survivor is not a holistic solution. By offering counseling as well, the survivor receives guidance, comfort and solace, and the encouragement and support to report the incident to the police.

(Photo: Participants role playing a counseling session)

Participants also shared the challenges that they face in reaching out to youth, including: ignorance of family planning choices, fear of health workers, shyness to ask questions, and limited time due to crowded health centers. Despite these challenges, Hajara encouraged the health teams to actively work together to improve their clinics’ youth-centered counseling and family planning services. Hajara also educated the participants on youth-friendly family planning methods. Through discussions they concluded that out of all family planning methods, youth who are sexually active benefit most from the use of condoms. Since sexually active youth in these communities tend to have multiple partners, condoms are the most effective family planning method to protect them from both STIs and HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy.

Girl Up Initiative Uganda, thanks the Hunger Project for the chance to work together to improve the state of youth-friendly SRHR services in Uganda. When youth are provided with accurate information about their bodies, their rights, and quality health care, they can make informed decisions, reducing the likelihood of child marriage, STIs and HIV/AIDS, and unwanted teenage pregnancy.

Please contact Monica at monica@girlupuganda.org if you are interested in hiring our experienced facilitators to lead a training in your community!

 
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