Empowering youth is not just a noble goal; it’s a responsibility we all share in creating a better, more inclusive society. One powerful way to achieve this is by integrating comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education into the lives of young people, while also promoting gender-based violence (GBV) prevention. In this article, I’ll share my inspiring journey of taking proactive steps to make this vision a reality by engaging community and religious leaders, as well as law enforcement agencies. These efforts have led to a commitment that can change lives.
Advocacy Journey: September 4th to 7th
The journey towards empowering youth and promoting SRH education as a means of GBV prevention started with an advocacy visit. During this period, our advocate connected with vital stakeholders within the community, including Community Leaders, Religious Leaders, and the Lagos State Police Force. Their commitment was instrumental in driving this initiative forward.
Community Leaders: Community leaders are the bedrock of our neighborhoods. Their endorsement and commitment to promoting SRH education and GBV prevention within their communities can significantly impact the acceptance and implementation of these vital programs. They understand the unique needs of their communities and can help tailor the messaging accordingly.
Religious Leaders: The influence of religious leaders on the beliefs and practices of their congregations is profound. Engaging with them was a strategic move, as it allowed for the dissemination of these crucial topics within the moral and ethical teachings of the community. Their commitment was instrumental in reaching a wider audience.
Lagos State Police Force: Law enforcement agencies play a pivotal role in addressing and preventing GBV. Collaborating with the police force is crucial in ensuring the safety of young people and providing effective support to GBV survivors.
Outcome of the Advocacy Visit: Community leaders expressed their commitment to support the initiative by allowing access to community spaces for educational workshops, providing resources, and encouraging community members to participate actively.
Religious leaders expressed their commitment to incorporating SRH education and GBV prevention into their teachings, creating a bridge between faith and knowledge. The Lagos State Police Force committed to providing training for officers on how to handle GBV cases sensitively and efficiently, as well as supporting the initiative by raising awareness about SRH education and GBV prevention among the youth.
Preparation: September 20th and 21st
After securing the support and commitment of these key stakeholders, our advocate shifted focus to gather and organize informational materials, pamphlets, and brochures. These materials were designed to provide straightforward and actionable information about SRH and GBV prevention, along with highlighting the support services offered by the NGO or CSO involved in the initiative.
Informational Materials: Sorting materials that are easy to understand and act upon is critical. These materials cover a wide range of topics, including safe sex practices, consent, reproductive health, and the consequences of GBV. They are designed to resonate with the needs and understanding of young people.
Pamphlets and Brochures: These concise materials are like roadmaps to knowledge and action. They can be distributed in schools, community centers, and religious institutions, making sure the information reaches a diverse audience. These materials serve as both education tools and sources of reference for those seeking help or information.
Support Services: Equally important is making sure young people know where to turn for guidance, counseling, and assistance if they experience or witness GBV. By providing this information, the initiative ensures that young people have access to the help they need when they need it.
Empowering youth through comprehensive SRH education and GBV prevention is a journey filled with hope and positive change. The commitment gained from community and religious leaders, as well as the support of the police force, is a testament to the collective effort to create a safer and more equitable future.
By integrating SRH education and GBV prevention into the lives of young people, we are equipping them with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions, foster healthy relationships, and contribute to a safer and more equitable society. This advocacy journey isn’t just inspiring; it’s actionable. It shows how individuals and organizations can drive change in their communities, one commitment at a time, ultimately making a lasting impact on the lives of young people. Together, we can empower youth and build a better tomorrow.
Omolayo Ogunyemi Cecilia
AfNHi Youth Mentee 2023