On International Youth Day, we celebrate the potential and power of 1.8 billion young people worldwide, and their crucial voice to achieve
the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development.

Young people, especially girls, face a significant risk of unplanned pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, gender-based violence, and other serious health issues.

EngenderHealth is partnering with young people to raise their voices and to bring comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services in countries across Asia and Africa, and the United States.

Scroll down to learn about our young champions from Uganda, the Philippines, and the United States, and get ready to be inspired.

A Young Couple Uses and Promotes Family Planning in Their Community

Kizza Kedekiya and Katusemi Evelyne

EngenderHealth’s Expand Family Planning (ExpandFP) project works to increase access to and use of quality family planning services across three countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The project promotes clients’ full, free, and informed choice of contraceptive method.

Kizza Kedekiya and Katusemi Evelyne, residents of Bukona Village, Hoima District, were in their late teens when they married. Five years later, they have two healthy little girls. Kizza, a farmer, and Katusemi, a nursery school teacher, are happy in life. They believe that raising two children is already a large responsibility for them, so for now, they use hormonal implants to keep their family small.

In July 2015, the district health office and EngenderHealth’s ExpandFP project chose their youth group—the Bukona Youth Development Group—to mobilize youth leaders to disseminate messages about family planning in the community, especially among youth aged 10–24. They believed in the messages and immediately signed up to be a part of the initiative.

“We felt the need to be role models and examples to other married youth in our community. That is how we became peer educators in the group,” says Katusemi. After some basic training, the dedicated couple moved from house to house to inform youth and other community members about the importance of family planning. They also spread the word when health providers periodically came for special family planning youth days. The couple say that many youth are happy to have family planning information and methods, especially in youth-friendly spots outside the usual clinic settings.

In her role as a peer educator, Katusemi says that her biggest challenge is tackling misconceptions about family planning methods in the community. In their volunteer role, the couple discuss the benefits of family planning overall and take questions about health issues during youth group meetings, drama activities, and community and religious leader meetings. Katusemi says that she saves the more technical health issues for when the health workers from Kigorobya Health Center IV come to provide services to youth in the community. She adds that the entire Bukona Youth Development Group is proud of their leadership on sexual and reproductive health issues. She says, “I believe we have sufficient information to clear up myths and misconceptions that block others from using family planning methods. It’s not foreign to us like it used to be.”

According to Katusemi, she and her husband are confident that their role as peer educators yields positive results for youth in their community.

 


A Champion for Young Moms in the Philippines

“Young moms can relate to me because I am young like them.”

Tzytel leads the discussion on gender and family planning at the PYP education session.

My name is Tzytel Castro. I am 19 years old and a proud mom of a healthy eight-month old baby boy.

It was last year when I learned that I was pregnant as I was finishing my second year toward earning my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Management. At the end of the school year, only my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and closest friends knew about my pregnancy... or so I thought. My mother asked me if I was pregnant and all along she had been observing the subtle changes in my body: slight weight gain and gentle broadening of my hips. I admitted that I was indeed pregnant. Although my mother was initially disappointed, I knew that she was more concerned for my welfare and with the baby.

I began participating in educational sessions organized under the Program for Young Parents (PYP) at the Iloilo Provincial Hospital. The PYP was developed by USAID’s VisayasHealth project implemented by EngenderHealth. It aims to give holistic support to young pregnant women through provision of health education, maternal and child health and family planning services, and psychosocial support. Through the PYP, I learned how important it is to receive antenatal care and to deliver my baby at the hospital assisted by trained health providers. I also learned about the benefits of breastfeeding for at least 6 months (which I did). The program educated me about family planning methods. In fact, after I delivered my baby, I chose the subdermal implant, which I will keep using until I am ready to get pregnant again. This is important to me because I really want to earn my college degree.

I became more involved with PYP after I gave birth. I handle the lectures during the weekly PYP Gender and Family Planning educational sessions. I share my story with other young pregnant women and mothers. I visit young mothers at the postpartum ward of the hospital and talk to them about my experiences. When I am able to encourage them to practice family planning or breastfeed their infants, I feel that I am making a difference in their lives.

I recently graduated from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) thorough linkages with the Program for Young Parents (PYP). In one year I was able to finish my National Certificate II for Caregiving and Massage Therapy. In the next two years, I hope to help my husband take care of our baby as well as help provide financially.

My involvement in PYP has helped me become more mature as a person. I am more confident to face the challenges of young parenthood. I am proud of what I do with the PYP. I am happy to support and inspire other young people; it is the least I can do for the program that has helped me so much.

 


A Young Woman Gives Back to Help Others

"Giving young people the resources to keep themselves healthy or to keep their children healthy is very important to me."

Sarah Weaver's Story

Sarah Weaver was only 19 when she realized that she was pregnant. She remembered, “I didn’t know about the options that I had—whether it was birth control before I got pregnant or clinic-based services afterwards to make sure that I stay healthy.” She feels fortunate that her family supported her in every way during this challenging phase of her life. Now, she is happily married again and devoted to raising her two children. In 2015, she went on to graduate from the Texas State University with a bachelor's degree in psychology, minoring in sociology. She hopes to pursue a PhD in cognitive neuroscience.

Life came back full circle for Sarah when she became a peer educator for the Re:MIX program with EngenderHealth in Austin, Texas. As part of this initiative, Sarah now reaches out to adolescents in schools to talk about issues that no one spoke about when she was in high school. The curriculum covers discussions around healthy relationships, consent, gender, sexually transmitted infections, and contraceptive options for girls and boys. The students are also given information about local health care centers where they can access youth-friendly services.

To connect with adolescents requires both skill and empathy. Most students feel that they don’t need to pay attention to what we have to say. But by the end of these sessions, the response changes. At one school, we were asked to come back for an extra day. At another school, students requested us to visit them again. On the last day of one of our classes, a kid hugged and thanked us for doing what we are doing. So you can see the difference.”

Among the range of topics, consent and birth control are two areas that catch the attention of these teenagers. Sarah shared that there “is a lot of confusion around the issue of ‘consent.’ In our curriculum, we emphasize that if you have consent at one point, it doesn’t mean that you have consent at another point. This usually leads to a deeper discussion. Moreover, many kids don’t know that they have the right to use birth control and the right to choose what kind of birth control they want.”

Once, a school teacher checked with the students to see how many among them had spoken to their parents about any of these issues. Fewer than a third raised their hands. Sarah said, “It was sad to see that parents weren’t talking to their kids about any of this. So many of them were sexually active with no resources or knowledge to keep themselves safe. That moment made this job seem meaningful. Giving young people the resources to keep themselves healthy or to keep their children healthy is very important to me.”

She went on to reflect, “Becoming a parent at 19 was incredibly and unexpectedly difficult. I can see the way this journey has benefited me. The role of a peer educator is to show that if you are a young parent, it can turn out okay, and you can still get where you want to in life. I am grateful for my story. It is nice to be able to tell a young parent that it’s going to be okay.”

 


Sarah completed the peer program this spring and is deeply committed to youth health field. She is now a Sexual Assault Prevention Specialist with a reputable organization. Her great facilitation skills grown through our program, natural leadership, and passion for working in prevention with her peers has led her to much success. As an alum, she has started working with our current cohort to offer support, mentorship and model professional skills.

1Re:MIX is a comprehensive sexual health program aimed at reducing rates of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among youth in Central Texas. Re:MIX pairs peer educators who are young parents with clinic-based health educators to cofacilitate the Re:MIX health curriculum among a target population of 13–17-year-olds.

Ready to Join the Conversation?

Highlight International Youth Day and the importance of #YouthVoices by sharing these pics on social media!

We felt the need to be role modles and examples to other married youh in our community. #YouthDay #Youth4Peace #ActOn2250
Young moms can relate to me because I am young like them #YouthDay #Youth4Peace #ActOn2250
Giving young people the resources to keep themselves healthy or keep their children healthy is very important to me. #YouthDay #Youth4Peace #ActOn2250
Girls Just Wanna Have Choices. #WheresTheFP
Access to contraceptives equals access to opportunity
Using Social Networks for Social Good. #WheresTheFP
International Youth Day is here! #YouthVoicesCount #IYD2017