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Author Amy Kakiza Rwakihembo Senior External Relations Manager, Uganda
31 Jan 2014 | Young people.
Reaching young people is one of the challenges of our work. The words “family planning” don’t always resonate with young people, yet if we can reach them, we massively increase the potential for generations of better sexual and reproductive health.
So we need to find new ways to communicate with young people. In Uganda this has led to us launching FRESH, an exciting new social media and SMS campaign that takes sexual and reproductive health to young people on their terms.
Uganda’s youthful population
The need to target youth in Uganda is clear. Almost 80% of the Ugandan population is under the age of 30 and 52% is under the age of 15. The fertility rate is high and almost one quarter of all pregnant women are teenagers, who often have limited channels to address sexual and reproductive health challenges.
Uganda has almost 5 million internet users and extensive coverage by mobile networks. With this in mind, Marie Stopes Uganda brought together a group of staff who are young, enthusiastic and active on social media and collaborated with young Ugandan Nargis Shirazi to launch FRESH – an online social media platform that provides young people with information on sexual and reproductive health and gets them talking about safe sex, gender equality, choice and consent.
I am FRESH, are you?
FRESH stands for Fully and Richly Empowered about Sexual Health and the campaign engages young people with the tagline, “I am FRESH, are you?”
The group behind the campaign call themselves BLYZE – “a team of people Boldly Living Young with Zeal and Energy to promote good health”. They use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace to raise awareness of SRH issues and encourage young people to use the MS Uganda hotline for information and counselling.
Nargis Shirazi, the founder of FRESH, believes the youth perspective BLYZE provides is crucial to reaching young people in modern Uganda:
We [young people] are not the future, but we are the present. The way you lived your life was different, the times have changed
Launching the campaign
FRESH was launched by Uganda’s State Minister for Primary Health, Sarah Opendi alongside MS Uganda Country Director, Deepmala Mahla at the end of last year. Minister Opendi said:
It is tragic that women in Uganda continue to lose their lives as a consequence of their ability to become pregnant; I am so happy that Marie Stopes Uganda is taking initiatives with young people.
As the campaign gathers pace, BLYZE aim to identify young Ugandans who are highly active on Twitter, Facebook and blogging and recruit them as brand ambassadors for our services. They also plan to promote MS Uganda’s SMS service, MarieTXT, to give young people even easier access to information and counselling.
Deepmala Mahla commented:
Young people have the potential to become the most precious asset for the country, and this can be done best by engaging them – nothing for the youth without the youth.
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