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Leaving no youth behind: UMATI’s youth weekend clinics in Katavi

Leaving no youth behind: UMATI’s youth weekend clinics in Katavi

Richard Ryaganda, Communications Specialist, UMATI

Mussa Mndemle, Field Officer, WISH2ACTION, UMATI

Renee Sewe, Communications Advisor -WISH2ACTION, IPPF Africa Region.

Featured image: James Kiduo reading SRH educational material with his peers. Photo by WISH2ACTION Tanzania.

12 August 2022: International Youth Day is a day designated by the United Nations to recognize the importance of the youth and draw attention to issues affecting the youth. This year it is being observed under the theme ‘Intergenerational solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages. The theme aims to emphasize that action is needed across all generations to address global issues.

This theme is in line with the WISH strategy of ‘Leave No One Behind’. WISH2ACTION is a Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) flagship programme to promote integrated sexual and reproductive health services to marginalized and hard-to-reach populations, including youth and people living with a disability.

Through various approaches, WISH2ACTION has strived to create awareness for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for youth, incorporating older generations such as parents, guardians, and community leaders in outreach pre-mobilization activities such as dialogues to address social norms and negative attitudes and support to youth.

James Kiduo is a 24-year-old young man with a physical disability who lives in Mpanda municipal council in the Katavi region of Tanzania. James was born with a physical impairment that has limited his mobility and ability to participate in physical activities. He moves around on his pedal cycle.

James has been determined to not let his disability hold him back. He lives with his nuclear family and works as a freelance cobbler to make a living.

Like most young people, James is social and enjoys spending time with his peers. Unfortunately, due to his disability, he is not always enabled to physically participate in all the same activities as his friends, such as sports and other community festivities. On such occasions, he feels excluded and lonely.

Youth weekend clinics

In early June 2022, James noticed that one of his close friends would leave on Saturday and come back much later in the day. After a few weekends of this unusual behavior, James approached his friend and asked him where he had been going. His friend revealed that he had been attending Youth Weekend Clinics hosted by IPPF Member association in Tanzania, UMATI, and invited James to attend the following weekend.

UMATI hosts Special Youth Weekend Clinics for the youth in Tanzania. The clinics are a blend of education and entertainment for adolescents and youth with a focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights. The clinics are scheduled over several weekends with a weekly focus on various subjects such as an overview of reproductive health, life skills, STIs, HIV, teenage pregnancy and early marriages, contraceptives and Gender Based Violence (GBV). The sessions are facilitated by peer educators and youth trained service providers who create an accommodating and welcoming environment for the youth.

James discussed his friend’s invitation with his family and decided to attend the following weekend. He was curious to see what it was all about, as well as spend time with his friend and other young people. His friends assisted him in pushing his cycle to the facility where the clinic was being held.  At the clinic, James participated in the sessions and enjoyed the entertainment, games, and socializing.

The learning environment is very conducive here at the clinic. I particularly like the use of audio-visual cards which make learning easier as we can repeat several times until we understand the sexual and reproductive message portrayed during the sessions. I enjoy the lessons taught through the audio-visual cards.”

Becoming an ambassador

James enjoyed the first clinic he attended, so much so that he proceeded to attend for the next three weekends. Encouraged by his peers, he began participating in edutainment activities as he is a talented singer.

James and his friends had not been exposed to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services, as it not taught in school and rarely discussed at home.

“I am now happy and confident as I have learned a lot of new things, gained lots of information, received services during sessions and was served equally like my peers. I can even be an ambassador by inviting other youth with disabilities to attend the good sessions like I have received without discrimination and with a high level of dignity and privacy,” he said.

In July 2022, James was appointed an ambassador of the Special Youth Weekend Clinics and has been actively recruiting other youth with disability to the clinic. Some of them are now training to become peer educators.

Mussa Mdemle of UMATI says “The Youth Weekend Clinics have positively impacted the youth with SRH information and have been able to integrate it with access to services, including counselling for youth. The peer-driven program encourages the attendance of other youth.”

Through the WISH2ACTION project, with FCDO funding, UMATI has to date conducted 2,463 Youth Clinics and reached 47,809 youth. This has worked towards improving the sexual and reproductive lives of those who attend, building the foundation of positive sexual health for the future. UMATI plans to scale up implementation of the youth weekend clinics across the areas of implementation, to reach more youth.