Connecting local responses around the world
I used to do sensitization and counselling for HIV, Drug and Substance abuse, sexual and reproductive health and life skills education amongst senior secondary schools Youths in Entebbe Uganda. Once in every term (three months). My approach was for an expert in a way that what is right for them, I also told them what to do and what not to do. But I realized that it was not very effective because they are adolescents they are experimenting and experiencing different things and all they needed was not an expert but a person who can understand, appreciate and encourage them to be responsible for the decisions they make. So they ended up doing what I told them not to do. For example we used to tell them not engage in sexual relationships because they were not ready for the consequences. We also encouraged them to seek health care and support for Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health(ASRH) issues. But they did not listen to us.
After I learned about CLCP I realized that these young persons are the experts of their lives and they can lead it the way they wanted since they were struggling to be independent from adults and I couldn’t help them I I also became another expert or instructor in their lives.
I decided to change my approach. I learned a new way of working with young persons. I learned to appreciate their own efforts to handle HIV and ASRH issues. I listened to their suggestions on how best I could support them.
So, I stimulated them to think of ways they can take the lead in making healthy choices. So the students agreed to form peer support clubs and they chose their peer counselors amongst them. To whom I transferred knowledge and skills about SRH, Life skills and HIV care and counselling t so that they can continue to counsel and support each other throughout the school term. Peer counselors also help them to access treatment and support from health centres and school administration if necessary. So even without me going to the schools, the students still support each other and they are now making healthier decisions about HIV and ASRH. They are also empowered with life skills to enable them manage their lives.
I learned that students listen more to peers who are of their own age than adults.
We have formed six peer assist clubs in secondary schools around Entebbe, led and managed by students themselves. In these clubs the students are able to share views and ideas about HIV, drug and subsistence abuse, life skills, ASRH, Leadership and other issues as they arise. The students are also able to come up with solutions that are manageable and available to them in their school communities. Where need be they can always reach out to health centres and health workers through a referral system managed by the peer counselors.