Fighting on multiple fronts to empower young people, we shine the spotlight on Youth Chaperon Uganda and their fantastic work.
Youth Chaperon Uganda supports and empowers women and youth to transform in all aspects of life and advocate for their rights. It creates safe spaces for youth to discuss issues affecting them.
As the word Chaperon describes a person who accompanies and looks after another person or group to encourage better behaviours, the organisation’s name says a lot about its work and activities. But, in this interview with Mutesi Miriam, Youth Chaperon Uganda Executive Director, you will learn more on its work and significant contribution.
In this Youth Time piece, she also introduces us to Chaperon Talk Camps, and how Youth Chaperon Uganda is improving the issues surrounding reproductive health among young people.
This is a vital topic for the community. Because of socio-cultural norms, speaking up about sexual education in an African context is difficult.
This culture is putting youth at cross roads- as parents shy away from the fact that children need to be guided, whereas youth are having sex in secret, unsafe spaces.
Responding to this alarming situation, Youth Chaperon Uganda raises awareness among youth of how they can protect their reproductive health, how to avoid unwanted pregnancy, and it encourages them to build their self-esteem.
Speaking to Youth Time, Miriam shares the work towards ending child marriage in Uganda and how they inspire girls to say no to sex for pads, and end menstrual stigma, too.
A Safer and Engaged Youth in Uganda
As a start, let’s see what’s the inspiration behind Youth Chaperon Uganda.
“Through personal observations and experience, we noticed certain behaviours that most people overlook. Issues like; drug abuse, thieving, toxic relationships, gambling, disrespect, dishonesty, gossiping unsafe environments, early sexual activity, and an attraction for soft lifestyles which is localised as “Kawewevu” (Eng.: Poor Parenting.).”
So, ever since its establishment, it is tackling some of the destructive behaviours through capacity building and creating safe spaces for youth, where they engage with trained counsellors to guide them with needed information.
Besides, Miriam elaborates, many parents in the urban centres are too busy to take care of their children, in this form leaving them in the hands of neighbours or house helpers who may abuse them physically, sexually and mentally.
“For the case of parents in the rural areas like Kamuli the parents do not have the right information on child protection and the need for parenthood and with this we look forward carrying out a campaign for parents under the theme “Beyond Giving Birth “to understand that giving birth to children is not enough but their presence to watch them grow into responsible matters a lot.”
Many fathers abandon women, leaving them struggling with single motherhoods.
“Mothers often find it hard to give time to their children because of the many necessities required by them; like food, shelter and clothing for their children.”
For this, Youth Chaperon Uganda has its peer groups, where they inspire young people to be advocates so they can inspire more young people to get on board.
“We know young people understand each other better than those that are older in age, this was noticed from our school programmes where girls fear going to the senior women teachers saying that they will not understand their issues more if it comes to, for example, menstrual health management.”
Knowing that this is a generation of social media users, they are using media advocacy to reach out to young people with the purpose of positive social media use.
“This is the time they would have used negatively and now it is occupied,” she adds.
Chaperon Talk Camps
The organisation also hosts Chaperon Talk Camps, designed to bring young people together from different schools and communities to listen, share and learn from their experiences and encourage each other on this journey of education and life.
“The camps help youth to develop important personal and interpersonal skills. Young people can open up to professional counsellors for guidance and support.”
“It also helps them reduce the risks of engaging in unsafe activities; such as drug abuse, and toxic relationships.
“Through sessions we give young people challenges to create bridges that help them bridge the bond, encourage talent identification and development for students so that they can feel motivated.”
Through the camps, students can express themselves freely as Youth Chaperon Uganda finds friendly facilitators.
Raising Awareness on Sexual Reproductive Health
Another crucial programme of this organisation is Sexual Reproductive Health Awareness. Miriam tells us how this programme is implemented and what are its key successes so far.
“Sexual reproductive health is a personal issue that affects everyone-boys and girls.
“Adolescence marks the beginning of a young person’s journey into sexual growth and sexuality is a very exciting and worrying period for young people who tend not to have control over their sexual lives. They are misled with false information with the consequences of sexual activeness,” she explains.
For instance, she goes on, we have come across several incidents in the ghetto areas in Kampala and the rural places in Kamuli.
“Many young people are engaging in early sex due to lack of proper information, the girls are told that if they have sex, they will not experience cramps in their menstrual period, others are told that their menstrual days will be reduced if not stop at all. The boys are told that it’s a sign of maturity to engage in sex.
“All these have hiked the tension of child marriages, teenage pregnancy, house steads of young parents, school dropouts, continuous poverty cycles. We take one step at a time to see that we put such occurrences to an end.”
Besides, girls engage in sex for pads.
“We strongly believe that young girls can still make it if we lift their spirits with a word of encouragement. We provide them with reusable pads so they can manage their periods. This is one step close to end menstrual stigma and encouraging girls to say no to sex for pads,” she explains.
Miriam tells us that incest cases are worrisome, too.
“Fathers are defiling their own daughters. Also, uncles, cousins and brothers are sexually abusing their female relatives, and it fills many families with trauma because such cases are a taboo in the African world”
Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, young girls are enclosed with their abusers.
“In this form, the mental health challenges are worsening. Tackling this, we provide physio- social support and work hand in hand with the law so that we punish perpetrators.”
The programme provides youth with helpful information regarding sexual health issues, by offering the following sessions:
- Sexually Transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS,
- Safe abortions,
- Early/ Teenage pregnancy,
- Child marriages,
- Substance use,
- Menstrual health.
Conclusively, she shares how young people can support their endeavours.
“Young people can volunteer or support through meaningful participation with innovative ideas that can be implemented to uplift other youths and the community at large, carry out charity drives to uplift others like games, marathons and also join the chaperon talk camps.”
Besides, Youth Chaperon Uganda advocates for safe roads and safe mobility of young women and women, in such a way creating roads that push them to their dreams.
To find out more, visit Youth Chaperon Uganda’s webpage at youthchaperonuganda.org.
Here’s an inspiring article about how media works in Uganda, and the person staying at the forefront of Entertainment-Education in the country.
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