Lessons from 2nd Kenya National Adolescent Health Symposium, #AHSymposium2017
I was very delighted and grateful to have participated in the 2nd Kenya National Adolescent Health Symposium, #AHSymposium2017, held between 23 and 24 November 2017 at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi. I represented Organization of Africa Youth-Kenya, where I volunteer.
This was such a great and a learning experience. I would say, ‘just when you thought you knew more on the topic, information given challenges your knowledge and opens up your mind to other possibilities’. I think SRH is a wide topic and still need more resource and research to address the challenges facing the adolescent.
The Symposium hosted by the Ministry of Health, brought together different stakeholders from all sectors, age and gender with an aim of building grass root to national actions towards harnessing the demographic dividend.
The theme of the symposium was “Fast Tracking Adolescent Health for the demographic dividend: Adolescent Health now for a healthy, educated and economically growing population”.
Something that I picked on was the point on involving the boys and men in advocating for girls. They are the brothers and fathers of girls and their involvement is so important. We don’t need to have young women face sexual harassment. This lowers their self-esteem and ends up affecting their education. One of the ways, we can help, to deal with this is by involving the men in SRH.
The session that I was able to enjoy the most was the session on the adolescent sexual and reproductive health that was held on the third day. Some of the things and issues being talked about seemed personal and I was able to relate with and understand more because I felt like I know just exactly how it feels like for your education to be interrupted because of lack of sanitary pads. In the primary school I attended in Isiolo County, a remote arid part of Northern Kenya, girls could miss school because menstrual periods due to lack of sanitary towels and this issue later affects their education. No girl needs to go through that.
I plan to do more follow up on what some of the organizations present at the adolescent symposium do on SRH, and have the recommendations from the youth taken into account. One of the recommendation from the youth was about the involvement of the youth in decision making when it comes to matters concerning them. As they said “nothing for us without us”.
This was shocking! 97 new infections everyday were the figures National Aids Control Council presented at the symposium. It just showed how we lose adolescents to HIV and I think we all are responsible to this issue facing adolescents. We as youth need to bring positive impact to them.
What is my take home? I have 3 sisters, aged between 9 and 14 years. The symposium has taught me on how to engage them on their personal issues as well as talking about sexuality with them. The right way of talking about sexuality is letting them identify their issues and ask questions and after that I should now talk about physical sexuality and consequences rather than starting with consequences and inflicting them with fear to address these issues.
By Sharon Shanaga, Volunteer Organization of Africa Youth-Kenya