On 4th December, all roads led to the international University of East Africa (IUEA) for the 2021 inter-university Dialogue on sexuality organized by Reproductive Health Uganda and her partners. The annual event brings together students from various universities, key stakeholders, and other young people to discuss issues pertaining to their sexual Reproductive health. This year the dialogue ran under the theme of creating safe spaces for inclusive meaningful youth participation in accessing SRHR information and services amidst COVID19.
It is undeniable that the COVID19 pandemic has had an adverse effect on young people’s access to sexual reproductive Health with various media reports indicating high rates of teenage pregnancies, Gender-based violence, unsafe abortions, and new HIV infections among others. This calls for designing interventions that are adaptable to the new normal. “One of our major priorities as RHU is making youth-led solutions to address their numerous challenges using avenues like Technology. “Peter Ibembe said as he flagged off the 2021 Inter-University Dialogue.
In her keynote speech, Dr. Betty Kyadondo the Director of Family Health at National Population Council emphasized the importance of meaningful youth participation attesting to it being result-oriented at all levels including planning and decision making. “There is an urgent need to make research so as to have data to aid in evidence-based programming” Dr. Betty added.
Being a youth-centered event, there was an hour-long panel discussion with student leaders from universities across Uganda who deliberated on their role in creating safe learning spaces at their institutions of learning. One issue that was eye-catching was how the student leaders laid strategies to end cyberbullying since most of the study had gone digital amidst curating mental health interventions for their fellows in the university environment among others.
Representing the State minister for Youth and Children Affairs at the Ministry Of Gender Labor and Social Development Hon Sarah Mateke Nyirabashiti, Mr. Mondo Kyateeka the commissioner of children and Youth at MGLSD gave the attendees a challenge to take part in creating their own safe spaces emphasizing that safety starts with an individual. He also highlighted the different policies that the government has put and is still putting in place to address the various challenges in issues like parenting and sexuality education among others. “University students need to use the extra time they have on their hands and utilize the technological advancement to do work and earn extra money for their basic needs instead of opting for cross-generational relationships.” He concluded
For youth to effectively have their issues addressed, key stakeholders must be present in the room which justifies the stakeholder panel discussion composed of duty bearers from government, CSOs, University leadership, religious leaders, and development partners who gave an in-depth assessment of how they meaningfully involve youth in their programming and work. This attracted questions and inquiries from the plenary which were all fully addressed.
Amidst the dialogue was the RHU sexuality village which involved exhibitions from different CSOs showcasing the interventions they have designed to close the SRHR information and service gap, entertainment, and live stream to publicize the event on the tag #IUDug21.
The hybrid event was concluded with the official launch of the Ask RHU, a Facebook messenger-based chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to automatically answer SRHR related questions. Read more about the newly launched AI here