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Peer education is an approach to health promotion, in which community members are supported to promote health-enhancing change among their peers. Peer education is the teaching or sharing of health information, values and behavior in educating others who may share similar social backgrounds or life experiences. Rather than health professionals educating members of the public, the idea behind peer education is that ordinary lay people are in the best position to encourage healthy behavior to each other.

Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU) with support from Program for Accessible Health, Communication and Education (PACE) under the Women’s Health Project - Jinja (WHP), recruited 30 energetic, enthusiastic youth members from communities within Jinja District to train and serve as Peer Educators. The recruited peer educators were trained in relevant Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and communication skills. Armed with these skills and information, the peer educators engage their peers in conversations about the issues of Family Planning, HIV/AIDS, Gender Based Violence and Sexually Transmitted Infections, seeking to promote better health seeking behaviors and health decisions among young people. The rationale for this training was to use young people to reach out to fellow young people, giving locally-relevant and meaningful suggestions, in appropriate local language and taking account of the local context, are be able to promote health-enhancing behavior change. The training took place from 14th March to 17th March 2017 at Merona Hotel in Jinja.

              
                                                   Betty and Peruth – Peer educators conducting group presentations during the peer educators training.

“I have learnt quit a number of things and have been enlightened on so many misconceptions that even I believed where truths”. Nekesa Lilian- Peer Educator

                
                                       Our facilitators engaging the participants through group discussions and one on one session during the peer educators training.

PHAU uses the peer education approach to reach out to young girls and women with up to date information on SRHR focusing on the different family planning methods in Jinja District. The Women’s Health Project aims at increasing access to and demand for affordable, high quality birth spacing services through a network of private healthcare providers who offer counseling as well as Long Term Methods specifically, IUDs and implants.

               
                                         Florence – our facilitator taking on a session about family planning methods using demos and flip charts.

“This training has opened my understanding of Family planning and has cleared the myths and misconceptions I had on family planning. I am going to share this knowledge with my fellow peers” – Walulya Paul – Peer Educator

We at PHAU believe that the primary work of peer educators is to give their peers information in a way that encourages and supports them to change their behavior to and increase family planning uptake. This work can be delivered in various activities by peer educators;

  • Conduct informal, small-group discussions about family planning services and reproductive health in general
  • Organize and conduct formal group discussions about family planning services and reproductive health in general.
  • Conduct door to door family planning mobilizations and referrals to the Profam clinics.
  • Distribute educational materials.
  • Display posters and other educational materials.
  • Present video/DVD screenings during out reaches.
  • Perform in dramas, skits and Musical roles during outreaches.
  • Participate in special events e.g. HCT activities.
  • Participate in media coverage of peer education work
  • Condom promotion, education and distribution.

“I did not know anything about post abortion care. Now I can help the girls in my community so that they do not die in case they have had an abortion.” Atyama Betty- Peer Educator

Advantages of training peer educators who mobilize and conduct health education in communities for health programs such as WHP include:

  • Serving as a peer educator provides a challenging, rewarding opportunity to young people to develop their leadership skills, gain the respect of their peers, and improve their own knowledge base and skills. Peer educators often change their own behaviour after becoming a peer educator.
  • It can give girls legitimacy to talk about sex without the risk of being stigmatized as sexually promiscuous (particularly when peer led activities take place in single-sex groups);
  • Peer educators can provide a valuable link to health services;
  • Peer education has had a positive effect on reported attitudes toward persons living with HIV/AIDS;
  • Peer educators have shown in some cases to be more effective than adults in establishing norms and in changing attitudes related to sexual behaviour. However, they are not necessarily better in transmitting factual health information. Peer educators and adult-led education can thus complement each other.
  • Receiving special training in making decisions, clarifying values, and acting in accordance with those values.

“These are the best facilitators I have ever encountered. They have a grip of what they are teaching and they sure know how to keep us connected and interested in what they are teaching.” Nabirye Peruth- Peer Educator

            
                                    Mr. Abel Mugalya, the Regional Manager from PACE handing over certificates to the participants in Jinja.

The Four day training was graced and closed by Mr. Abel Mugalya, the PACE Eastern Uganda - Regional Manager who handed over certificates to participants as well as encouraging the peer educators to go preach to fellow young people with correct and up-to-date SRHR information and refer them for services in selected Profam clinics in Jinja.

Written by Kasaija Joseph

Project officer-PHAU

 

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