Youth and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: Focus on Uganda
It is critical that young people around the world are engaged and informed on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with over 75 percent of the population under the age of 35. Maureen Andinda with Reach a Hand Uganda chats with us about the importance of young people’s knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and young people’s role in combating SRHR challenges.
Financial, social, and cultural issues are often deeply rooted in sexual and reproductive health and rights. Young people must have the knowledge and information on SRHR that would allow them to make informed decisions regarding family planning, because deciding if, when, how, and with whom one might have a family with is a basic human right.
In 2016, Uganda’s Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development temporarily banned sex education, in order to reshape the narrative and ways in which it would be presented to Ugandans. With already limited access to sex education, this ban prevented young people from accessing it completely. This pushed Parliament and Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports to launch the National Sexuality Education Framework, which provided guidelines on how sex education would be taught.
Reach a Hand Uganda is optimistic about the National Sexuality Education Framework, as the Ministry of Education and Sports is open to working with various partners on improving sex education. While Reach a Hand Uganda is not quite back in schools teaching sex education, there is a new and promising structure that will allow the organization to work closer with the Ministries that work with the new framework.
U.S. policy and politics are negatively impacting Reach a Hand Uganda’s work with youth. The expanded Trump global gag rule has cut off funding and forced sexual and reproductive health care providers to close their doors. Young people are now left unable to access the services these centers provide. Vital programs through organizations like UNFPA were also defunded, leaving young people empty-handed.
We have to make sure that young people have access to reproductive and sexual health information and services around the world. Stigmatization and shame hinder access and damage perception of SRHR. Practical limitation like access to transportation and money may also prevent young people from taking care of their sexual and reproductive health. Respecting, welcoming, and hearing the concerns of young people will break down barriers and destigmatize SRHR.
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