I lead a 20 year-old network of over 600 youth clubs in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda under a Youth-to-Youth (Y2Y) Initiative by DSW. The objective of the Initiative is to empower young people aged 10 - 24 to improve their sexual and reproductive health and socio-economic status. The clubs have an average membership of 18,000 young persons at any given year. Y2Y provides a youth-supportive environment to address the multifaceted needs of young people which include unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion and sexually transmitted infections, drug abuse among others. Through the Initiative, 68% start businesses and protect themselves during sex, 61% take HTC, and 45% use contraceptives for family planning. 13,088,145 condoms have been distributed to young people by young people.
The suffering that of our women and children go through either because they were conceived through unwanted pregnancies or through cultures and traditions that do not give a voice to our women to decide when or how to have children.
Religious beliefs are the biggest hindrance. Some religions encourage people to go and fill the world. Some religions do not believe in healthcare services and their members do not go to hospitals. Some religions consider discussions about contraceptive not appropriate and training youth and the unmarried is telling them 'go and have sex'. However working with a few religious leaders has helped convince more and learn strategies to approach them better like through the Faith to Action network.
The biggest challenge in family planning in Kenya is poverty. Poverty brings about illiteracy and unemployment or underemployment. This can be addressed by designing interventions to address the needs of youth and women of reproductive age holistically. Youth out-of-school need education and employable skills that will help them manage their families. More importantly women of reproductive age need information and services on their sexual reproductive health and rights to be readily available.
I want to nurture a youth movement within East Africa whose goal is on "family planning services - here and now" for everyone in need. this movement will come out of the 600 youth club network that i provide leadership to. I want to see this movement taking a lead role in key meetings where decisions about health are made.