My Voice My Rights (MVMR), launched in 2015, aims to break the silence on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and recognize these services as a basic human right. The program operates locally in Jinja and Mayuge and nationally in partnership with AfriYAN (a network of youth-led and youth-serving organizations), the program aims to increase the number of young people who have access to SRHR at a local level and focuses on advocacy and policy influence at a national level.
Caption: Sexual and Reproductive Health outreach campaign in one of the schools targeted by the programme.
Mayuge is a largely rural population with just over 380,000 people and diverse tribal backgrounds. Many of the residents are farmers, fishers, or work in the informal sector. The Jinja district is a more heavily populated district adjacent to the Nile river and Lake Victoria, with a population of 468,000 people with a similar business sector.
Young people in Jinja and Mayuge districts are affected by high teenage pregnancy rates, accounting for 20% of the population between the ages of 15-19 (UBOS, 2016). Around 7.2% of the population in Jinja and Mayuge has HIV/AIDs and this rate is on the rise, compared to a rate of 0.01% in the US (CDC, 2015) which is declining.
The biggest challenges young people are facing are unsafe sex, intergenerational sex, lack of access to youth-friendly health services, absence of positive role models, gender inequality, social disconnection between young people and parents, and negative attitudes by adults towards sex education.
How does it work?
Restless Development has mobilized, coordinated and built the capacity of youth, teachers, health workers, and youth-led community based organizations (CBOs) in Jinja and Mayuge to increase the access and use of SRHR services and information by young people.
Caption: Peer educators leading a training session with out of school youth on family planning.
We work with 10 schools and 10 out of school youth groups in each district. Teachers and peer educators from local CBOs lead the efforts to train youth on SRHR on a weekly basis to change their behaviours. The topics include gender, personal hygiene, HIV/AIDs prevention, STD prevention, and menstrual hygiene management.
We have partnered with a number of health centres and built the capacity of their staff in order to provide youth-friendly services. Peer educators and teachers refer young people seeking SRHR services to these health centres.
In addition to the local changes, on a national level we have built the capacity building and increased the awareness of other key stakeholders such as local government officials to better understand the SRHR needs of young people in their communities and get them involved in supporting the young people’s advocacy efforts in their districts.
MVMR reaches out and engages with a number of different stakeholders through SRHR dialogues both at national and district levels. Such dialogues include the national SRHR Dialogue on contraceptives, radio talk shows on the individual responsibility of the youth to enjoy their sexual rights while respecting those of other people, and meetings with religious leaders from all faiths (catholic, anglican, seventh day adventist, orthodox and muslim) to bring them on board to break the silence around youth sexual reproductive health as they’re the custodians of society morality and 60% of private health facilities in Uganda are owned by religious institutions.
MVMR has reached a total of 5,572 young people with SRH information, where 3,976 are in-school youth and 1,596 are out-of-school youth as of 2017.
It has also enhanced young people’s access to SRH services by engaging with health facilities in the provision of youth friendly services by building the capacity of their staff and by coordinating community health outreaches to reach areas where SRHR services are almost inexistent. During one of these community health outreaches, Restless Development distributed 17,280 male condoms and 100 female condoms; 26 young men received safe male circumcision services; 101 young people were tested for HIV; and 17 girls were screened for cervical cancer.
Caption: Youth from a nearby technical school undergoing a session on male condom use.
At national level, we empower and support AfriYAN to conduct a number of advocacy campaigns, especially around ending teenage pregnancy.
Caption: Participants of the Youth Stakeholders’ Meeting on Ending Teenage Pregnancy in Uganda.
Restless Development have petitioned the Prime Minister’s Office for a multi-sectoral approach to end teenage pregnancy in Uganda and mobilized young people to input into the draft of the National Adolescent Health Policy, which is currently under review.
Stand out story
Caption: Abangi Gorret (21), a member of one of the youth groups we work with in Jinja.
The sexuality education sessions conducted have positively changed behaviors of young people as shown by the anecdotal evidence below:
“…. I have learnt a lot of things such as making healthy decisions, knowing places where I and other young people in my community can access health services. Most importantly, I gained skills and knowledge on making local sanitary pads. Am confident and skilled enough to make pads from local materials like cotton clothes and other materials. With these skills, even if I fail to raise money to buy the modern pads, I have an alternative” ABANGI GORRET (21), member of a youth group in Jinja.
“ … I and most of these young mothers did not have knowledge on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and responsibilities i.e. Sexual Rights which are rights of all persons i.e. free of coercion, discrimination and violence, Right to the highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services, right to seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality, right to respect for bodily integrity; right to decide whether or not, and when, to have children; right to pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life, right to consensual marriage among others. These sessions have enabled me and other young mothers to have gained knowledge on these rights and information got has enabled us to have strengthened families through making consensual decisions with our partners” ATHIENO SYLIVIA, 17 years old from Lukone youth group.