Sunday, February 7, 2016

Peers to engage fellow peers in sexual education

To easily engage the youth in sexual education, over 50 university students and senior six leavers have been passed out as peer educators on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHRs).
The candidates are to use the knowledge to sensitize other young people in communities, schools, universities and other higher institutions to help them make informed choices.
The event which lasted for a month, since January 4, 2016, was organized by Reach A Hand Uganda, supported by the Segal Family Foundation, Rutgers, MTV Staying Alive Foundation and Victoria University where it was held.
"We have equipped all these students with comprehensive sexuality education. We have come to realize that young people listen to their age mates easily than older people. But we also engage adults during our events for guidance," Humphrey Nabimanya, the RAHU team leader noted.
RAHU is a youth led non-profit organization focused on youth empowerment programs with an emphasis on SRHRs, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
He was speaking at closing even at Seven Trees in Kampala.
"This year's academy has been thrilling, more engaging and informative compared to the last two intakes. This time we had a well-designed curriculum to suit the ever changing barriers and needs of young people," he added.
Nabimanya stressed that young people can be agents of change amongst fellow youth if they are well guided and equipped with the right information.
"If we are talking about young people being agents of change, we need to arm them with all the necessary knowledge and information on peer to peer conversations both online and offline communications, sexuality and motivation. This eases their interaction with fellow peers, whether in class, recreation parks, or anywhere," he added.
Bakshi Asuman, RAHU's programs manager, stressed that peer educators easily influence young people than adults because, "they see them as their colleagues and interact freely without fear".
While closing the event, Dr. Maggie Kigozi, the former Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), also a member of The Elders Forum Uganda stressed that there is still a lot of ignorance among the peers about sexual education, which poses a big threat to the country.
She appreciated the initiative of peer to peer engagement, saying the academy can easily help in bridging the gap to help more youth to make informed choices.  
"Young people still face many challenges than ever before. There is a lot of information but at the same time a lot of ignorance. This is your chance to break this barrier. Become an inspiration to fellow young people out there. Engage and communicate these issues responsibly and above all, be change makers" Kigozi noted.
The RAHU Peer Educators Academy is an annual event which was started by RAHU in 2014. It is aimed at establishing a platform to train and equip young people with in-depth information and skills on SRHRs, which they pass on fellow peers through that very year in different secondary schools, communities and universities country wide.

The academy was facilitated by a range of experience from both the young and old. They included; Dr. Maggie Kigozi, Angelo Izama (journalist), Winnie Nansumba (HIV activist) , Rev. Sam Ruteikara (Church of Uganda acting health secretary), Jocelyn Keko (local hip hop artist) and  Richard Musinguzi, the man behind the Katoto animation among others.

Nabimaya said the Peer Educators will be distributed in 25 different schools, attached to different organizations and mentored for another seven months, where they will have to influence other peers' behaviors.
"Under this approach, behavior change starts with the peer educator. The changed peer educator will have to influence a positive change among fellow youth in schools, mainly from the SRHR clubs. These school SRHR club members then adopt the promoted behavior. After realizing the benefits of the new behavior, they target then their peers who in turn choose to change behavior," he explained.
On Valentine's Day, February 14, the peer educators will go out to the community for the first time, to empower fellow young people with SRHR knowledge.
They will also give out free condom education and distribution, HIV testing and Counseling, and have a free public screening of the sexual health-themed TV series MTV Shuga. 

Twelve outstanding peer educators together with cultural icons were also awarded in different categories in appreciation of their commitment and hard work to change young peoples' lives.
They included; Edgar Michael Ntensibe (best use of social media), Alex Mpata (Leadership Award), Mark Muganga (best SRHR advocate, Monica Achen (rising star), Winnie Nansumba (achievement award) and Emmanuel Kateregga (innovation award).
Clare Akini Muga (overall Peer educator), Moses Lukwago (overall peer educator), Reagan Barigye (peer educators' choice award male), Hope Kirabo (peer educators' choice award female) Maurice Muhasa and Raymond Mugerwa, for best cultural icons.

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