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The Power of Peer Education

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Humphrey Nabimanya, Reach a Hand Uganda

From a survey that we at RAHU conducted last year, nearly 85% of young people, ages 15-24, think that there is a need for them to whether freely access information on sexual and reproductive health. Young people face issues like unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and cross-generational sex and, therefore, require full access to sexual and reproductive health information and services to protect themselves.

In January 2014, we started the first ever Peer Education Academy in Uganda - a unique initiative to empower young people with life development skills, self-awareness skills, and sexual reproductive health and rights information. Through this program, we trained 50 young people (23 female and 27 male) in peer education; counseling and guidance; sexual and reproductive health and rights; drug, alcohol, and substance use; and integration of social media and sexuality education.

The Peer Education Academy uses a multiplier effect that assumes a cascade model of behavior change. Under this approach, behavior change starts with the academy-trained peer educators. The peer educators are attached to different mentors who guide them during a seven-month program. The 50 trained peer educators have been able to directly reach 13,647 young people (8,903 female and 4,744 male) with SRHR information and skills through the in-school focus group discussions, school activations, and youth health camp.

It was during the implementation of the Peer Education Academy that we realized young people need the SRHR information, but that there was need to re-package this information and channels of dissemination. So, we introduced the “Sexuality under 18 campaign,” which involves the use of dustbins that have been specifically designed with stickers bearing SRHR messages. These “talking environment” platforms were distributed to 15 schools in and around Kampala. The dustbins were placed in strategic areas where rubbish is disposed of, becoming an avenue for young people to access the messages freely.

Along the way, there was a need to involve the older generation. We held a one day Intergenerational Dialogue on SRHR where in- and out-of-school youth advocated for access to youth-friendly services and legal abortion to reduce the high maternal mortality rates in Uganda.

The peer educators have become agents of change. They have conducted peer learning sessions in schools and empowered young people to become SRHR champions by passing on the information to the rest of the school during assemblies, debates, and parents-teachers meetings.

We would like to thanks Women Deliver and other seed grantees, Nargis Shirazi and Wanzala Martin, who have always taken part in the planning and implementation of our activities. Also, Rutgers WPF for the technical support, MTV Staying Alive for the additional funding, International Health Sciences University for hosting the Peer Educators Academy, Reproductive Health Uganda for providing a technical team, our peer educators, and local schools for always availing us with time to reach out to the young people.

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