Championing for Quality Contraceptive Services Among Youth in Buikwe District, Uganda
Contributor: Albert Bwire
As a young boy, Ronald Bakubanja admired the way government officials carried themselves and the respect they commanded in their communities. He fondly remembers how they would pass around messages about health campaigns within his village. Now 24-year-old Ronald wants to do the same thing.
He has witnessed firsthand the challenges his peers face when they become pregnant and have to drop out of school. Not to mention the difficulties of having to take care of and provide for a baby when they themselves are still children. This situation hit close to home when his younger sister became pregnant before completing school:
I love my sister so much. She was born bright and performed exceptionally well in school – in her was the potential of becoming a lawyer.”
His experience of supporting her when her boyfriend left led him to become a youth champion for adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH). His mission was simple:
Acquire as much knowledge as possible and use it to educate my peers about reproductive health matters, including HIV which was also ravaging young people in my village.”
After The Challenge Initiative (TCI) introduced its AYSRH program along with its high-impact interventions to Buikwe District, the health management team selected a number of interventions. These included the youth champion approach that empowers selected young people to provide information to their peers about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and link them to services. Ronald shares how he got involved and what it meant to him to become a youth champion:
I was lucky because at the time TCI started implementing AYSRH program, I was an intern in the finance department. When I requested to be included in the coaching sessions, I was allowed. They even nominated me as the district youth champion. This was a dream come true; I was becoming a mouthpiece with a title.”
As a trained youth champion, Ronald is following his dream and using every avenue to support access to quality reproductive health services and information to young people. He hopes to see more young people accessing services and see more political and community leaders support open dialogue on matters around contraception.
I will go where I can to spread the message of improving access to quality reproductive health services to young people.”
Ronald is excited by his work with the local government and seeing young people more engaged in programming that directly affects them.
We have a voice now. We advocated for special days at facilities (another TCI high-impact intervention) and it happened. Slowly, we are seeing more of us sitting in district annual work planning and budgeting meetings. Youth champions are a critical component of health systems strengthening. They use various platforms to engage with district leaders, including participation in community dialogues and radio shows to deliver messages for support and allocation of resources towards implementation of quality health services for young people.”
Irene Matovu, the youth focal person of Buikwe District, shared how youth champions are changing how government works:
Volunteer youth champions inform their leaders about the benefits of contraceptive services and the importance of reaching young people for better health outcomes. As a district, we shall continue ensuring that young people are involved in health issues affecting them from the facility to the district level.”