One of our Ni-Yetu Program participants, 23-year-old Patrick, shares his story of self-improvement and rejecting societal norms tied to negative masculinities after stumbling upon one of our community group discussions. We are so grateful for all of our passionate youth advocates actively working to make their communities a violence-free and inclusive space for women and girls.
Read his full story below!
“I come from a family of only boys and the only female is our mother, even the schools that I attended, they were remote schools where the numbers for girls were really low and even those who were present could isolate themselves from the boys. This made me appreciate women less and with no knowledge of how to treat a woman. Acts of violence towards women were very probable in me, as I was so naive about woman.
In my free time, I take walks around my community just to pass time. It was during one of those random walks that I found a group of youth discussing and connecting very well. I asked them if I could join so that I could also be part of the discussion. They welcomed me and I felt at home right from the beginning. Wilber, who had introduced himself as the Peer Educator for the group, welcomed me and encouraged me to bring others if I had anyone willing to join the group. I was inspired by the group after seeing that the girls and the boys did not fear each other.
During the group discussion there were a lot of talks about gender and how to treat a woman. This got me interested—I really yearned to hear more about the proper way to treat our female counterparts. I was so interested in talking with the young women and discussing how they can best be treated by their male counterparts. Sometimes, I stayed after sessions to participate in one-on-one conversations with my Peer Educator. These extra interactions molded me into a responsible young man with a good attitude towards women plus gave me leadership skills.
The knowledge and confidence that I learnt from the group enabled me to appreciate women and to stand up for their rights. I realized that women are no lesser than their male counterparts. I started having discussions with women without fear and having escalated talks of how a woman can take care of herself when experiencing their monthly menstruation. For instance, I have a female friend called ‘Shakira’ that I got after joining the peer group. She was shy about buying sanitary towels in my presence, but after being trained on respecting women and menstruation, I encouraged her to be free. At some point I bought pads for her and she was so shocked. From then on, she is free to share with me and I always talk to women respectfully and treat them with dignity.
I took it upon myself to encourage other boys in my neighborhood to appreciate women and to treat them well. This caused me to be known in my area as a female advocate. The more I talked to youth about prevention of gender-based violence the more I gained confidence and my leadership skills enhanced. By no surprise, when an opportunity for new Peer Educators presented itself, I was strongly nominated by my Peer Educator with support from the group members and I enthusiastically embraced it. In this I knew I would get more knowledge from the trainings organized by Girl Up Initiative Uganda, and get to share with other people in my community as I fight to end gender-based violence in my community.
I now have enhanced leadership skills, my dress code changed, and my friends who belong to ‘the street group’ are changing with my mentorship. They are choosing to make right decisions concerning their sexuality and life, and to fully respect women.”
Through our youth peer educators, we are creating and sustaining a movement of confident, young leaders fighting for gender equity in Uganda!