Patrick Mwesigye, a Ugandan youth leader has been awarded the Global Youth Leadership Award on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Mwesigye was awarded by World Health Organization, African Union and the Access-Challenge at the sidelines of the recent 2019 United Nations General Assembly in New York at the One by One: Target 2030 Achieving UHC: A Sustainable Future for Africa.
Basically, the award goes to phenomenal young people that have extraordinarily worked to promote adolescent and young people’s health issues and advocate for their central position in the Universal Health Coverage agenda
The award was presented to him by former Tanzanian President Dr. Jakaya M. Kikwete and Dr. Githinji Gitahi, the co-chair of UHC2030-WHO and CEO of Amref Health Africa.
Mwesigye, 28, is the founder and team leader of the Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum, a dynamic youth-led organization that seeks to advance quality health and well-being of adolescents and young people and promote gender equality at the community, national and global level. Their focus is on sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal and child health, gender equality, ending child marriages and entrepreneurship and skills development.
Mwesigye says the goal of the organization is to promote quality health and well-being for adolescents and young people and gender equality in the context of universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.
At the award-giving ceremony, it was noted that the Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum recently conducted a survey and produced a report titled; Achieving Universal Health Coverage in Uganda – Needs, Challenges and Experiences of Adolescents and Young People with Uganda’s Health Care System. The report from the survey was presented to policymakers and young people are using it to advocate and demand for Universal Health Coverage approaches that respond to their needs and rights.
Handing over the award, Gitahi noted that “Patrick is indeed a disruptor and a star, a true representation of the incredible work and impact that young people can create if well empowered, supported and meaningfully involved.”
“This award comes at the right time and clearly matches our incredible and outstanding work as a dynamic youth-led and youth-serving organization in mobilizing and amplifying the voices of adolescents and young people to not only meaningfully participate but also influence and shape policies, programs and decision making processes that affect their health and well-being,” Mwesigye noted.
Other awardees were
- Mali president Ibrahim Boubacer Keita, who got the UHC National Health Reforms Award
- Ethiopia president Sahle-Work Zawde, who got the Primary Health Care Leadership Award
- Kenya president Uhuru Kenyata who got the UHC Political Leadership Award
- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who got the UHC Leadership Award.
Mwesigye says he got inspired to start the organization after the ordeal of his sister who got pregnant at 12 years. The pregnancy badly affected her and she even dropped out of school losing out on her future potential. In addition, the stigma and discrimination she faced left her traumatized and she has never recovered from it.
While at Makerere University, where he studied for a degree in Environmental Management, Mwesigye got involved with the United Nations Association of Uganda and got to learn about the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
“The two MDGs on maternal and child health; and gender equality specifically caught my attention considering the high number of women and girls that were faced with unwanted pregnancies and how these led into pregnancy and childbirth-related complications and deaths.
I was also concerned about the inhumane forms of sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices that women and girls face. I then started to relate to my own life, family and background and this spoke to my sister’s life and the many girls I went to school with who later dropped out of school because of pregnancy while for many of the boys, we were lucky enough to proceed with school.
“I got further mentorship and support from UNFPA-Uganda and UNFPA East and Southern Africa and later made up my mind to establish UYAHF, which has been an incredible platform for impacting lives of hundreds of thousands of adolescent girls and young women who we reach out to with information, skills, and services on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and entrepreneurship and skills development,” he explains.
He also holds a diploma in Environmental Management from Galilee International Management Institute in Israel, he is certified in maternal and newborn leadership by Harvard School of Public Health; and in entrepreneurship, peace and conflict resolution by International Conflict Research Institute Ulster University in Northern Ireland.
Mwesigye is also a winner of the 120 Under 40 for 2019, a new generation of family planning leaders worldwide, he is a youth representative on the CSO Global Steering Coordination group for the Global Financing Facility -GFF, a member of the Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health- PMNCH Adolescents and Youth Constituency Leadership and a former board member as well as a former vice-president for the Africa Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development and a member of the African Union Youth Advisory Board.