Strengthening teachers’ capacity to address sexual and reproductive health rights of young people

7 September 2018
Senior Teachers listen to a Ministry of Health official explain the importance of providing youth-friendly services in schools at UNFPA

Schools play a critical role in providing information to adolescents, including facts on sexual and gender-based violence. However, most school structures allow for only one or two teachers to handle counseling and sexual and reproductive health needs of students. Usually referred to as Senior Woman or Senior Man, these are the staff tasked with addressing girls’ and boys’ needs respectively.

“We have over 3000 students at Kololo Secondary School but only have one Senior Woman and one Senior Man. The two of us cannot reach all our students,” said Ms. Edith Maunde, Senior Woman Teacher, Kololo Senior School.

UNFPA works to ensure that adolescents and young people have access to adequate and accurate information and friendly health services. As one of the ways of realizing this, UNFPA invited selected Senior Teachers and counselors from Kampala and Wakiso districts for an informational session on sexual and gender based violence at its offices on Tuesday August 28, 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to understand, share knowledge and experiences about existing youth-friendly services offered in schools. UNFPA also wanted to create awareness about SafePal, a mobile reporting App that also links survivors of sexual violence to health and legal services.

Some of the Senior Teachers at the information session held at UNFPA
Some of the Senior Teachers at the information session held at UNFPA

 Ms. Doreen Tukamushaba, the Programme Officer in charge of Adolescent Health at the Ministry of Health emphasized the importance of treating young people with respect, particularly when handling cases of sexual and gender-based violence. Ms. Tukamushaba added that young people are looking for people they trust enough to confide in, that they can access freely and trust that their issues will be dealt with in confidentiality.

Ms. Doreen Komuhangi, the UNFPA Program Analyst in charge of Gender-Based Violence urged teachers to always be alert and report all cases of sexual and gender based violence.

“It’s the role of the teachers to observe students and notice any changes in behavior because we know that most students won’t come to you to report sexual violence or harassment,” Ms. Komuhangi said. “You are not helping the survivors of violence by protecting their feelings and failing to report these cases. Sexual violence is a criminal offence,” Ms. Komuhangi added.

During the discussions, teachers said they fear getting in trouble for reporting sexual violence cases or getting the children in trouble because perpetrators are usually well-connected or are the main care-givers to survivors of violence.

Ms. Komuhangi encouraged teachers to utilize anonymous reporting tools such as the Sauti Helpline and SafePal mobile App. The Sauti Helpline is a government 24 hour helpline run by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development while SafePal is a UNFPA-supported mobile App innovation, developed by young people to  support confidential reporting of  cases of sexual violence and link survivors to care services.

By the end of the information session, teachers pledged to design sexual and gender based violence prevention activities for their students. UNFPA gave the teachers communication and informational materials on SGBV and encouraged schools to utilize the UNFPA innovation Café at its offices - an open space for young people to meet, learn, share and develop innovative solutions for issues affecting young people.