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"Trust and empower us” – say young people in Uganda regarding their sexual reproductive health and rights

9 September 2019
Young people presented their position paper on sexual and reproductive health and rights to officials from the Ministry of Health, UNFPA, and National Population Council. ©Hope Kirabo/UNFPA Uganda

Imperial Royale Hotel Kampala, Uganda: On 28th August, young people in Uganda held an ICPD25 Youth Satellite event to share experiences on what the ICPD agenda means for them, how it has impacted on their lives, and also learn from each other on how they can play a critical role in advancing the agenda.

“This is typically a young people's space to dialogue, share experiences, and learn more about the ICPD and its Programme of Action, and how it has influenced our lives or enhanced opportunities for exercising our sexual and reproductive health rights,” said Patrick Mwesigye, Team Leader at Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF), during the event. “But also we shall have a conversation on how, very many young people have been left behind.”

Young people across Uganda, represented by 180 participants who came to the satellite event passionately articulated their concerns regarding access to sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services.

“We are seeing pushback and backlash regarding young people’s SRHR, particularly in regards to sexuality education, contraception, gender equality, among other issues, indicating the often-politicized nature of SRHR and young people’s health, which further impedes progress and, in some cases, even threatens regression,” the young people stated in a position paper that they handed over to officials from the Ministry of Health, the National Population Council, UNFPA, and the Embassy of Denmark. 


On the panel (L-R) Miss Y+ (youth living with HIV/AIDs), Nabanoba
Vivian, Ms. Rebecca Masaba, representing people with disability,
Miss Uganda 2019, Oliver Nakakande and  Mr. Humphrey Nabimanya,
Founder and Team Leader Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU)
© Hope Kirabo/UNFPA Uganda

During a conversation between young people, key government leaders, policy makers and legislators, Hon. Baguma Spellanza Muhenda, the Member of Parliament and Chairperson, Network for African   Women Ministers and Parliamentarians (NAWMP) said that a day before the Youth Satellite event, Parliament of Uganda presented a motion demanding Government to implement key policies that would impact on young people. The policies include the National Sexuality Education Framework 2018; the Adolescent Health Policy Guidelines and Service Standards; and the School Health Policy. According to Parliament, all these policies are in draft form or have been finalized but not yet operationalized.

“Uganda Women Parliamentarians are also working on the Sexual Offences Bill as one of the measures to address teenage pregnancy,” said Hon. Muhenda.

According to the 2016 Uganda Health and Demographic Survey (UDHS), Uganda’s teenage pregnancy rate stands at 25 percent, of girls age 15 to 19.

“One key aspect of engaging young people is to co-create solutions for our future. We want to show you that we know what we are doing, all we want is for you to trust and empower us to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for young people,” Said Mwesigye.

According to UNFPA, the upcoming ICPD25 Summit that will take place in Nairobi from 12-14 November is the kind of forum where world leaders are expected to make concrete commitments that show that this time, they are serious about ensuring that young people everywhere are empowered to make informed choices about their bodies, their lives, and their futures.

“At the ICPD Summit in Nairobi, young people will be front and centre, sharing their hopes and perspectives and contributing their ideas, their leadership, their energy and creativity under the theme: My Body, My Life, My World!” Said Ms. Mareledi Segtso, UNFPA Uganda Deputy Representative, a.i.

According to Government of Uganda, the recommendations by young people that were presented in their position paper will be considered during the national high-level symposium on ICPD25 that will take on 2nd October, in preparation for the ICPD25 Summit in Nairobi.

“I support what the young people have said, can we provide accountability for what we have done since 1994 at the ICPD in Cairo,” said Dr. Betty Kyadondo, the Director of Family Health at the National Population Council.

In Uganda, supported by UNFPA, the National Population Council (NPC) under the Ministry of Finance is the coordinating government agency for the advancement of the ICPD agenda.

- Compiled by Prossy Jonker Nakanjako