Reflecting on 2023: Team Leader’s Message!

Hello and greetings from Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU)! As we step into 2024, I find myself filled with gratitude and reflection on the incredible journey we have shared as Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU) in 2023. This past year has been marked by challenges and triumphs, and I am proud to share a few thoughts with you as we bid farewell to 2023 and usher in 2024—the new chapter.

Celebrating Our Collective 2023 Achievements:

2023 has been a testament to the strength of our partnerships, the resilience of our supporters, the hard work and passion of the PHAU team, and the unwavering dedication to our shared mission. The milestones achieved, challenges surmounted, and collective dedication of our exceptional staff, community champions, partners, and supporters—both locally and globally—have made a positive impact on the young people in the communities we serve.

PHAU’s collective achievements are a testament to the unwavering commitment of each member of our diverse and dynamic team. From groundbreaking campaigns to innovative projects, their hard work and passion have brought positive change to countless lives. Together, we have made strides toward building healthier communities, and I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished.

Two of PHAU’s major projects in 2023 were the Propagation of Women Empowerment and Rights (PoWER) project with funding from the Commonwealth Foundation implemented in Luwero district and the Let Her Shine project with funding from the Aga Khan Foundation and Global Affairs Canada implemented in Kampala district (Makindye division) and Mukono district.

Together, these two projects in 2023 saw 60 adolescent girls and young women (AGYWs, 15–30 years) trained as peer educators and 402 community gatekeepers, including men, local leaders, media personalities, and opinion leaders, become champions of women empowerment with gender-sensitive solutions and evidence-based advocacy focused on the needs and priorities of AGYWs at community and national level. Using door-to-door community mobilization and community dialogues, PHAU reached 8494 adolescents and young people (AYP) with age-appropriate SRHR information, leading to 2548 referrals for SRHR services at public health facilities near them. Similarly, we witnessed a growing trust and reliance on the services offered, as well as an increase in community awareness and acceptance of SRHR services among young women.

From the POWER project in Luwero district, PHAU’s peer educators participated in advocacy engagements at the district level during the District Health Team (DHT) meetings, where they presented their advocacy questions, which led to the activation of the youth corner at Kalagala Health Center IV and the revamping of the one at Zirobwe Health Center III. Additionally, through our peer educators, PHAU was able to reunite 3 young girls with their families. Two of them had gotten pregnant and had been chased from home, and another had been raped at night on her way from work by unknown perpetrators.

Through our community work conducted by our peer educators and community gatekeepers in Kampala and Mukono, an increased number of sexual gender-based violence cases have been identified, reported, and survivors supported with both medical and psychosocial support.

(These and more success stories have been shared on our YouTube channel.)

Through our Youth Empowerment and Advocacy Hub (YEAH), which is an information and resource center for young people to acquire skills and knowledge through training and mentorship programs, we graduated 2 cohorts of 100 AGYW (18–30 years old) under the four core modules of: a) vocational skills building (i.e. tailoring, hair dressing, and jewelry making); b) comprehensive SRHR education and peer-to-peer support; c) leadership, mentorship, and advocacy; and d) entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and business management. These AGYW, through door-to-door sensitization and five medical camps and outreaches within their communities, reached over 15000 girls in Kampala (Makindye division) with SRHR information and service. From the first cohort of 50, 18 of the trained AGYW have found decent employment through the skills they received, and 6 AGYW have since started their own businesses.

Under our thematic area of Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation (WASH) with a focus on Menstrual Hygiene and Health Management (MHHM), PHAU’s WASH education programs aim to ensure an enabling environment for adolescents and young people through increasing awareness and knowledge on issues of personal hygiene, body changes, and Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management (MHHM). With support from the Aga Khan Foundation, we have completed MHHM trainings for 48 young women and men in Yumbe district, where we have distributed over 70 ‘Bfree‘ menstrual cups which do not require water for boiling and like other menstrual cups, last for more than 10 years, a sustainable solution to menstrual hygiene challenges, especially in a refugee context.

Participants in the Yumbe traning on the bfree cup.

Stressing our passion for connecting with young people, we called upon PHAU’s Niche of Edutainment and Informative Performance Arts (EIPA) approach and hosted two (2) specialized experiences. Firstly, we held PHAU’s 3rd edition of the Gender Equality Voices Poetry and Storytelling Competition, where we had 86 creative writers advocate for the rights of women and girls through their creative writing and had 740 attend the grand finale (both physically and virtually), an event that was also aired on NTV News. Secondly, we launched an online Podcast via our YouTube channel dubbed “It Takes Two” through which we host conversations tailored towards breaking gender barriers, embracing gender equity, and accelerating gender equality.

PHAU’s achievements in 2023 stand as a testament to the strength of collaboration. Together, we have implemented impactful initiatives, reached new milestones,contributedantly to PHAU’s Vision of Empowered young people taking control and ownership of their health. Your support has been instrumental in turning our vision into reality.

In the same year, we managed to make some commendable updates to the PHAU app which went live. The Phau App Version 2.2.5 has a fresher interface and strong focus on community. Download or update your PHAU app to have a newer experience as we exercise brick-and-click in health.

The app has been updated with some new outstanding features that include facilities and appointments.

Some collaborations to note include those with Commonwealth Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation, Global Affairs Canada, AHF Uganda Cares, UNFPA Uganda, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Luwero District Local Government, Mukono District Local Government, Jinja City and Jinja District Local Government, Nabagereka Foundation, National Theatre, FIDA-Uganda, Yimba Uganda, Ajuna Lifestyle, Youth Alive Medical Center, Mildmay Uganda, Access Medical Centre-Namuwongo, Mukyala Mabirizi Nursing Home, and AIDS Information Center.

Our partnerships have been vital in amplifying PHAU’s impact. To our collaborators, supporters, and donors, your unwavering belief in PHAU’s mission has not only fueled our achievements, and empowered us to reach new heights, but has also inspired the young people that we serve. Your collaboration and generosity have not only funded projects but have also been instrumental in our ability to make a meaningful impact with aspirations transformed into tangible outcomes. We look forward to continuing these partnerships and forging new ones in 2024.

Looking Ahead to 2024:

As we turn the page to 2024, our gaze is set firmly on the future. The lessons learned in 2023 will guide us as we navigate new opportunities and challenges. Together, we will continue to be at the forefront of ASRHR advocacy, driving positive change and creating a lasting impact on the well-being of the young people that we serve.

Looking ahead to 2024, PHAU will spotlight our Guiding Principles as key areas of focus that will drive our mission forward by emphasizing the importance of engagement and involvement of young people and their communities in our initiatives.

Young people’s input is instrumental in the success of all PHAU’s endeavors. We understand that young people are resourceful and meaningful contributors that should be involved as partners in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of programs and policy that affect their health and well-being. However, young people can only be active and equitable partners in programs, policies, and initiatives where their voices are heard and valued. So, we at PHAU intend to continue to avail these young people with meaningful opportunities to contribute, practice skills and obtain the necessary experiences as leaders.

Young people, however, do not live in a vacuum, so we encourage open communication and collaboration with their communities because every community gatekeeper is equally responsible for protecting young people against any risks that may cause harm or death. Individual efforts, when combined, create a powerful force for positive change. Empowering young people and their communities to take charge creates an opportunity to foster ownership, inclusivity, sustainability, and long-term impact.

Call to Action:

In closing, on behalf of Public Health Ambassadors Uganda, I extend my deepest gratitude for your resilience, and your unwavering commitment and collaboration. Your steadfast contribution has truly defined 2023 as a transformative year for PHAU.

I invite all young people and the stakeholders that influence the success of their health and well-being to share their thoughts and ideas as we collectively shape the path ahead. Together, we are a movement for positive change and have the power to shape a healthier and more equitable world in 2024. I encourage everyone to join hands in the journey ahead; whether through volunteering, spreading awareness, or supporting fundraising efforts (on the PHAU WEBSITE AND SHOP).

Thank you for your unwavering support, and I look forward to the continued success of Public Health Ambassadors Uganda in 2024.

Wishing you a joyful, healthy, and prosperous 2024!

Warm regards,

Lillibet Namakula

Team Leader

Public Health Ambassadors Uganda

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