Youth Champion Doreen Kaswa Helps Her Peers in Iganga District, Uganda
Contributor: Albert Bwire
Doreen Miremebe Kaswa is an industrious 23-year-old, who wants to become a nurse. Currently, Doreen is a volunteer youth champion at Nambale Health Center III in Iganga District, Uganda. Here, she shares why she became a champion for youth in her community:
Young girls, especially adolescents, are not informed about their developmental changes, let alone have reproductive health information that can transform their lives. Growing up, I would see my mother and father being consulted by people in our community about health issues. Both of them were health workers – my mother is a nurse and I admired her a lot as she would also give advice to people about family planning. The advice [that she gave community members] helped them seek those services.
The first time I used contraception, I was already working as a youth champion with The Challenge Initiative (TCI) through Nambale Health Center (HC) III in Iganga District. I knew about all of the methods and how they work. My mother had shared a lot of information about contraceptives [with me]. In my community, many parents are uncomfortable talking about, let alone acknowledging, sexual activity among adolescents and youth.
Use of contraceptives among young persons is regarded as taboo. Most of our parents have negative perceptions about contraception as they still believe that it makes young girls promiscuous and that they may become infertile. Having knowledge about contraception is a weapon that has guaranteed many of our young girls stay in school and pursue their dreams. I use all the platforms that I get to reach the youth in my community with what I have learned. For example, we hold community and school health education sessions, home visits and other sports activities. We talk about life skills, abstinence, share correct use of contraception as well as address myths. What we are learning is not only about sexual and reproductive health but also can support ourselves for brighter futures.
With support from the health workers, we hold community dialogues with parents, youth, community and religious leaders. Some come out and support us. There is a mother who brought to me her daughter to be given a contraceptive method. She told me that the girl had become sexually active. The mother allowed me to talk to her. And after, she came to the health facility and was given an implant. I also have parents who call me to talk to their daughters about life skills, abstinence and counseling. The boys come to me for condoms and health education.
The most rewarding part of my work is seeing how our activities are changing the behavior and attitudes of young people in my community. My day starts in the morning, after garden work, I go to the health facility to support health workers counsel young people who come for services. Some of the evenings, I check-in on the young mothers at their homes.
I thank Sister Maureen Nabirye, a midwife at Nambale HC III. She has really coached me on reproductive health matters, especially for youth.…This experience has taught me lots of important lessons as well.”