The year 2016 has started with us heading straight into one of our 2016 resolutions- a bigger and better Peer Educators’ Academy.
As you read this, over 50 young people between the ages of 15 – 24 years are going through an intensive and vigorous training on sexual reproductive health and rights at Victoria University where they are being equipped with comprehensive knowledge to become advocates of health lives for their peers.
The current class (#PEA2016), is the third class after (#PEA2015 and (#PEA2014) who are now alumni of the Academy. Like the alumni, these energetic young people will be working with us for the rest of the year in different outreaches (at schools and communities) and activities we will be carrying out until the sun sets on this year.
What you should know about the Peer Educators’ Academy
For starters, the Peer Educators Academy (here in referred to as the Academy), was started in 2014 year to furnish young people aged 15-24 with information on sexual and reproductive health & rights to support their peers.
It is through this information, that these peer educators use throughout the year to listen, talk and communicate to their peers in trying to help them overcome their challenges in regards to sexual and reproductive health.
As we speak now, 117 young people (excluding the current class), have had the benefit of going through the Academy, a period to which most have testified as a life changing moment.
Speaking and listening to some of 2015 class of peer educators (#PEA2015), takes you deep into the heart of the academy in ways that are captivating, superbly enticing and perfect display of the benefits accrued to the once in a lifetime moment.
Of course at the start, most of them look forward to meeting new people, interacting with them so that they gain self-esteem not forgetting individual self-discovery on top of increasing their knowledge on sexual and reproductive health rights.
The peer educators point out that the sexual and reproductive health rights challenges which kept on raising during the outreaches where general questions about sex, student-teacher relationships, school dropout due to teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions .
Their experiences however, are not a walk over. They are young and speak to fellow young people. Therefore, sometimes they fail to get a working relationship with their peers. This is because they are looked at more as friends than fountains of knowledge on SRHR.
But to Claire Muga Akinyi, one of the peer educators, she says that when you have knowledge and skills and you are empowered, you are respected in the end and you become the mediating factor between them and the challenges your peers go through.
This is because you are expected to be empowered and be knowing everything at all times. To Doreen Birungi, another peer educator, that is the only challenge she faced. But in the end, she is happy for the respect which has been accorded to her all attributed to her flexibility and knowing much about sexual and reproductive health and rights thanks to the academy, makes the outcomes of the Academy to be worth it.
Joining the Academy has given an opportunity for the peer educators to change young people’s lives. The numerous interactions that they have had with young people in schools and local the communities , has made them realize the reality of the problems which as young people, thought only existed in movies.
The reality of such problems however, makes these peer educators express themselves freely with the students and the community. The connection that they derive makes them create a long lasting relationship beyond the Academy.
Such connection, still goes on on easier platforms for example WhatsApp groups, Facebook and email communications which have made it possible for them to stay in touch is what Emmanuel Kateregga, another peer educator, calls clients, when they can’t be available physically.
They do however acknowledge bigger challenges while in the Academy. The passing on of knowledge (with hope of being consequently accepted), just doesn’t happen in a single day but through a multiplier effect.
Emmanuel emphasizes that if you don’t prove to them that what you are going to say to educate them about is really important, they won’t listen to you. This happens during outreaches in schools.
To be able to communicate effectively therefore, you need to create an environment where someone can openly express his or her emotions to you. You have to be receptive to whatever they say be it act like them to preach the message to them.
This is why the peer educators have been able to communicate with their peers. They have been able because they talk the language that fellow young people wish and want to hear. That is the language they understand.
Through this, they are still impacting more and more lives of fellow young people. They continue to break barriers that limit the breakthrough of their peers who are in a position of hopelessness and despair.
These are the stories and experiences we will be looking out for come 4th January 2016. It is when we will be having the third class of the Peer Educators (#PEA2016). It is time for yet another year of empowering more young people, reaching out to other new young people and also learn about their experiences.
Key highlights from some of the 2015 peer educators
Here is what some of the peer educators can say about their stories and experiences during their time as peer educators of 2015.
“Sometimes we think that we know yet we don’t know. Come to the right platform and get the necessary information that you need, sieve it out and interact with people and learn. That is what the Peer Educators Academy is all about.”- Tayler Bashir Kabuye