I work with young people living with and most affected by HIV in several countries in East and Southern Africa to empower them to know and exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Through the Link Up project, we have reached over half a million young people with quality and integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including a range of short and long-term contraceptive methods.
What I am most proud of is supporting young people to participate in all aspects of programming in their communities - including the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects. Young people's experiences in programming has enabled them to develop skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.
I grew up empowered to make choices for myself. At times, I was constrained by my environment - by conservative beliefs, negative peer pressure, conflicting messages from adults. However, I always had strong role models who supported me to think through decisions in my life.
Family planning is an important part of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Since I started working in HIV 10 years ago, I've championed women's empowerment, choices and rights - rights that I enjoy.
The biggest challenge I've faced is stigma and discrimination towards young people who are living with HIV, selling sex, using drugs, identify as sexual minorities and/or are vulnerable for other reasons. They are badly treated in their communities, including in health facilities as they access services. In my work, I've championed grants for youth organisations, supported anti-stigma activities and promoted the visibility, leadership and rights of young people who are marginalised and excluded.
In East and Southern Africa, the biggest challenge we are facing in promoting contraceptive methods is the conservative and restrictive cultural and policy environment in which we operate. We are addressing this through trainings and mentorship opportunities for young people to speak up on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights; community dialogues with parents and community leaders; healthcare provider trainings; and advocacy with policymakers and parliamentarians.
Over the next five years, I'ld like to expand the amazing work we are doing in Link Up with young people across Africa. I'ld like to see a movement of young people who are speaking boldly and confidently on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights, creating demand for quality services that young people want to access, actively engaged in service provision and shifting minds and attitudes in their communities and amongst policymakers and parliamentarians.