The moment I got involved with Women Deliver Young Leaders Program in 2013 I decided that I would never let a chance to share new knowledge with my peers pass me. I consciously decided to share new knowledge with my friends and any young people that I came by. I made this decision because of what I had learnt at Women Deliver Conference in 2013. I was introduced to stories from different young people representing different parts of the globe and all of their stories were worth sharing and needed to be heard. This was one of the major reasons I am a World Contraception Day Ambassador.
September 26th was very important to me given that I am representing Kenya and the Middle East. Kenya had celebrations for this day and I chose to spend my time there to interact, share, and spread awareness with young people about contraception. The mission of spreading awareness on contraception and young people’s SRHR is not as easy as a couple of tweets per day. It is more than tweets and more than social media. I have learnt that having a face-to-face conversation on this subject is as important as tweeting and posting about it on social media. I have learnt that conversations can take any turn. This is not a comfortable topic to just talk about with anyone and when one is approached to converse about it, many factors have to be considered such as the culture, the background, and the circumstances that the person is surrounded by. For instance, DSW Kenya in partnership with Bayer had a Young Adolescents Project event that I was lucky to take part in. This project did not only reach out to young adolescents, it reached out to young mothers, fathers, young people, and adolescents more broadly. It is easier to talk about a common cold your child has than it is to talk about whether you would like to have another child and how soon you would like that to happen. This is a private issue which is difficult for many to discuss openly. When it is a bunch of strangers approaching you to discuss it, it is even more uncomfortable. So, we talked about the common cold, tuberculosis, STD’s and HIV and contraception. I have learnt that being direct doesn’t work everywhere. I have learnt to be sensitive around the topic of contraception because this is a subject that has many twists to it and everyone is fighting their own battle with it.
The event was held in Mtomondoni, Kilifi, half an hour away from where I grew up. In my search to hear young people’s voices on their SRHR, I was busy engaging mates in different kinds of conversations. One thing was common in all of these conversation, the peace of mind that contraception comes with is underrated. It is important for young people to be exposed to information about ALL of their options for contraception. However, the most important thing is to make sure that young people are free to make their OWN informed choices and to be able to own these decisions. I learnt that young people want to know, want to have access to, and want to own the consequences that comes with the freedom to choose what they want. Adequate SRH is a right and so it is the right to choose what is good for oneself. Half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion people – is under the age of 30. This generation has the largest number of young people the world has ever seen. The least that governments, civil society, policymakers, and anyone trying to reach out to young people can do is respect their ideas and choices even if they do not align what you may want for them. Women Deliver always says that, “Young people need access to youth-friendly, affordable, and non-judgmental sexual and reproductive health information and services, including contraceptives,’’ which echoes exactly what I am trying to convey.
While undertaking this project, I have also learnt that communities embrace champions who share their experiences. Young people are more receptive to young champions from their own communities. It is difficult to connect if you from a different community and experienced a different set of circumstances. Young people should be front and center, sharing their SRHR stories. Young people should be enabled to empower themselves. It was easier for me to go back home, to where I grew up, and share why young people in my community need access to contraception and SRHR than it is for me to share this message elsewhere.
Thank you DSW and Bayer for such a great opportunity to be in the field with you.
About World Contraception Day:
In support of World Contraception Day and Women Deliver’s Young Leaders Program, Women Deliver and Bayer will work in partnership on a three-year World Contraception Day (WCD) Ambassadors Project. The project equips young people with the skills they need to collect and share digital stories about young people’s SRHR and access to contraception in their home countries. The project includes a storytelling and digital media training, a seed grant, and advocacy opportunities for the Ambassadors to showcase their work at the international level.