Judith Adokorach(R), policy officer for Sexual Reproductive Health in the Embassy of Netherlands autographs as Dr. Charles Kanyesigye, deputy project director looks on during the launch of the project on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights by the Makerere University School of Public Health on Thursday February 23, at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala. Photos by Roderick Ahimbazwe
With a 3.7m Euro (about sh14b) funding from the Netherlands Embassy, the next four years are likely to see a revamp in the content and context for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the country.
The project being implemented by Makerere University School of Public Health (MUSPH) and Nsamizi Training Institute of Social Development is meant to develop a standard curriculum that can be benchmarked by all training institutions on sexual and reproductive health.
Speaking during the launch of the project, Theo Oltheten, the First Secretary, Rule of Law at the Netherlands Embassy explained that this comes to respond to capacity building challenges shrouding sexual and reproductive health interventions in the country.
“Capacity building has continuously come up as one of the issues affecting sexual and reproductive health interventions supported by the embassy. So with this we expect more results,” he said.
Under the four year period, a total of 400 Sexual and Reproductive health will be professionally trained at the two institutions.
According to the Deputy dean of MUSPH, Prof Christopher Orach who is also the local project director, the new curriculum is to be developed through multi-stake holder consultations with culturally appropriate content and responding to the current demands in sexual and reproductive health.
“We are going to develop models that significantly focus on sexual and reproductive health other than having it as part of the different modules taught at the school,” he said.
Being social development experts, Orach says Nsamizi training institute will bring on board an advocacy perspective to make the course more than just a knowledge gap intervention but give it a catalytic power.
“We need communities to understand and demand for quality sexual and reproductive health services as a right,” he says.
Left to right: Judith Adokorach, policy officer for Sexual Reproductive Health in the Embassy of Netherlands, Prof. Christopher Orach, Deputy Dean Makerere University School of Public Health, Dr. Charles Kanyesigye Deputy Project Director and Charles Otim Project manager during the launch of the project on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.
Currently, maternal and child mortality in Uganda is still at record high in the region (368/100000 and 43/1000 respectively), Orach argued that this could help transform the ugly statistics.
“When communities are empowered with the right information, they will appreciate such critical practices as having a baby with the help of a qualified personnel but also demanding for these services to be made available,” he said.
Just recently, a study by the school of Public Health and Guttmacher Institute showed that over half (52%) of children born in 2013 were unintended. This has largely been attributed to limited access to modern contraceptives but also lack of adequate information on sexual and reproductive health.
With a target to reduce the fertility rates by half under Vision 2020, health experts argue that empowering communities with sexual and reproductive health information could transform perceptions.
Judith Adokorach, a policy officer in charge of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at the Netherlands Embassy argued that drivers of high fertility in the country is not necessarily the lack of contraceptives but rather perceptions and gender inequality factors.
The programme according to Adokorach comes in quite timely to revisit the country’s approach and be able to address the concerns and contentions around sexual and reproductive health.
But, Sylvia Namabidde, a former parliamentarian argued that leaders too need to be empowered otherwise, they have become stumbling blocks.
“Our political leaders need to appreciate how important it is to talk to young people about sexual and reproductive health. Leaders have a platform and should be empowered to use it with the right information,” she argued.
However, the Assistant Commissioner for Youth Affairs at the Gender Ministry, Mondo Kyateeka, explained that the failure to unpack the contents of what was being presented as comprehensive sexuality education is what caused a storm in the country.
Much as SRHR education is important, Kyateeka emphasizes that the content has to be in line with the country’s values.
Dr Auma Okway, the overall project coordinator from the International Institute of Social Science of Erasmus University of Rotterdam explained that much as they intend to provide guidance, the project is to be implemented by local partners.
“We want to come up with research based evidence to inform policy but also strengthen systems around SRHR,” she says.