Patrick Mwesigye

2019 Winner

Position: Founder and Team Lead
Organization: Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF)

Bachelor’s Degree from Makerere University – Environmental Management

Additional Degrees and Certifications:
  • Short Course diploma in Environmental Management from Galilee College – Israel
  • Certificate in Safe Mothers and Newborn Leadership – Maternal Health Taskforce – Harvard School of Public Health

A dynamic noisemaker from Uganda advancing the rights and dignity for women and girls, Patrick translates his leadership into action. He leads the local SheDecides movement that unapologetically advocates for family planning, safe abortion, and CSE.

– Emma Artley, 25×25 Young Leader at SheDecides

Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

As Uganda strives to keep a grip on hard earned gains to improve the health and well-being of women, girls and young people, I am excited to be one of the few youth leaders and champions to ensure that young people’s voices, rights, needs and aspiration take center stage.

I am a seasoned and noisemaker. My work through the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) and the Africa Youth and Adolescents Network for Population and Development (AfriYAN) has over time mobilized and amplified voices of more than 10,000 adolescents and young people from across East and Southern Africa to meaningfully participate, shape and influence health policies and programs of their countries that affect their health and well-being and ensure that these policies respond to the specific needs and aspiration of young people.

In Uganda, my policy, advocacy influential in giving adolescents and young people a space to hold the government of Uganda and Ministry of Health accountable the implementation of commitments made in FP2020 Commitments, the Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan, and the RMNCAH investment case among others. As a result, we have seen the government of Uganda launch the National Sexuality Education Framework, approve the National Policy for SRHR and review the National Adolescents Health Policy. Through the development and review of all these policy frameworks, young people mobilized through Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum, have meaningfully contributed in shaping and influencing these policy development processes. For example, I supported young people to review the draft SRHR and Adolescent health polices. They developed a national youth position paper with key insights, observations and recommendation which were later presented to the Ministry of Health’s Adolescent Health Technical Working Group for consideration.

Our youth driven social behavior Books before Babies campaign, Youth for Safe Motherhood Campaign, Pulani Ki? others have all reached out to over 10,000 adolescents and young people of different categories including; adolescent girls and boys in and out of school, young mothers, adolescents and young people living with disability, young people in rural and urban poor slums among others who we have mobilized and as result increased their demand access and uptake of SRHR, maternal and child health mental health and social protection services and information. Ki example, addresses and demystifies and misconceptions that surround family planning and uses , theatre and community based focused group discussions as well as community dialogues to enhance demand for SRHR services through educating young people on their SRHR rights, family planning options and where to seek SRHR services.

Books before Babies – a girls’ rights driven and centered campaign – works directly with girls to challenge negative and social norms that undermine the dignity, health and well-being of girls.  The campaign educates school going girls of their high risk to teenage pregnancy, sexual and gender based violence, child marriages, menstruation stigma and their effects and also how to use their power to navigate, challenge and prevent these barriers. Today book before babies works with 8000 school girls in over 50 schools in 10 districts of Uganda.

The Youth for Safe motherhood project has reached out to over 1500 mothers and built their urgency around the basic concepts of safe ; antenatal care, health facility deliveries, family planning majorly; LARC and postpartum family planning, nutrition, immunization, birth registration among others. These young mothers are also linked to health facilities that offer youth friendly services with trained health providers.

Also in my capacity as a She Decide Champion I have driven the birth of the She Decides Uganda Movement and inspired similar movements to start in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Philippines etc. These She Decides local movements are creating a better, safe and stronger world, where women and girls can decide about their body, their life and their future without question. In Uganda, the She Decides movement has mobilized advocates, feminists, activist, young people, policy makers, media among in the belief in the fundamental rights of every and every woman, everywhere to make the decisions that she should only make. Working together as She Decides friends and champions we are advancing the rights of women and girls everywhere to enjoy their bodies, make their own choices, have access to family planning services, safe abortion services, contraceptive services and feel free from sexual and gender based violence and other harmful practices like; child marriages and FGM.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

My passion was sparked by my sister’s story. My sister got pregnant at 12 years and as a result had to drop out of school. This ruined her future till today. As a result, she underwent repeated pregnancy and by 18, she had 3 kids from different men and was also married off at 17. My mother, though a midwife with knowledge family planning and safe abortion, did nothing because she put her religious beliefs and moral norms first before her profession. At 20 years, I was introduced to the Millennium Development Goals as a young leader supported by UNFPA Uganda and UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office. I got to learn more about the MDGs then and particular the ones on maternal and child health. UNFPA supported me to attend various workshops, meetings and conferences where the problem of teenage pregnancies, early marriages and SGBV was discussed and they always challenged us as young people that we can play a key role addressing these challenges. This begun to make sense my life and my sister’s story. I started thinking out loud why my sister did not use contraception or opt for safe abortion and since then I up, speak out, take action and support adolescent girls and young women to live quality lives with equity, dignity and opportunities to realize their full potential.

Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.:

One of my greatest gesture in displaying leadership has been through of fellow young people and particularly young women. In 2013, I started Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum – UYAHF from scratch. Today, UYAHF has grown into one of the biggest youth led and youth serving health, human rights and gender equality – girl centered organization that is mobilizing and amplifying of young people to meaningfully participate, shape and influence policies and programs that affect their well-being in addition to empowering vulnerable adolescent girls and young women to live quality lives with equity, dignity and opportunities to realize their full potential.

About 98% of the staff and peer educators at UYAHF are all young people 30 years and below with some below 24 and 20 years and over 65% of our staff are women while 70% of our peer educators are girls 24 years.

I am what I am today because some people saw value in me, mentored me and created for me to participate. I have therefore decided to do the same to very many promising young people that I have been walking my advocacy journey with and majority are young women because, as a male feminist and male ally, I believe so much in creating opportunities for women and girls to be leaders.

If you are named a winner of 120 under 40, how will you use this new platform and the $1000 grant to advance your work? 

I will use the 120 under 40 Platform and the grant to expand and scale up my already ongoing work on policy advocacy and social accountability for FP2020 Commitments and the FP Costed Implementation Plan for Uganda. There is of sufficient local evidence to spark action from in ensuring access and uptake family planning services for adolescents and young people.

Therefore, I will use the grant to compile and generate animated audio-visual stories of adolescent girls and young women testifying of a failed and disappointing health care system that has failed to meet their SRHR needs hence undermining their rights, dignity and potential.

Then I will go forward to disseminate this evidence by premiering these video animations at various policy level advocacy spaces I am invited in and use the evidence to spark dialogue and call on policy maker to to up the key recommendations for actions. I will disseminate the animations through various online platforms and social media to raise awareness of young people on the problem and spark online debate and discussion calling for action from targeted policy makers.

Video Introduction:

Photos of the nominee in the field/at work: