I am one of the few young Gambians that are bold enough to stand up for the rights of girls and an active advocate for Sexual and Reproductive Health and rights of young people in my country. I have worked with several youth associations in the country to advocate for individual liberty, as a peer health educator and of course currently the Country Coordinator for the International Youth Alliance for Family planning. My job is to advocate and campaign for my fellow youths to understand the need to practice family planning as a way of life for their socio-economic development. Family planning is a taboo in most communities in my country; there is a myth that it is imposed on us by the West to further reduce our population. I am committed to eradicating that myth.
My country is one of the poorest in the world, but that doesn't make her citizens realize that we can fight the endemic poverty through family planning. Men marrying more than two wives and most having as many children as their wives can possibly concieve. This is making dependency more acute on the heads of families thereby making it absolutely difficult for them to save any income for prosperity. I see this trend and it sparked my passion to educate my fellow youths to see differently.
Typical Gambian families are very conservative and they see family planning as a very bad thing. This is of course due to the misinformation usually fed to them by some members of the society giving them the notion that it is an ill-conceived plan designed to weaken our societies. My biggest challenge was to make my family understand all the merits of practicing family planning. I am able to convince them! I am using the same strategy with other families to do away with such myths.
Majority of the people in my country are muslims, me included, and the narative for so long been that Islam is against family planning in its entirety. This notion has been engraved into the socities' core values and traditions for so long. It has made the term "family planning" a taboo in most communities. This has been the biggest challenge of the family plan movement in the country for too long. The problem can be addressed by educating the next generation of leaders to see FP differently.
In next next five years, I intend to train and educate as many Gambian youths as possible who would also have the skills, the passion, the energy and the creativity to champion interventions that will ensure that youth in their communities and regions have access to high quality and judgement-free family planning services as well as comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and information. I am working towards this goal. And hopefully, will accomplish it in the next five years.