Patrick Mwesigye - Founder and Executive Director of the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum
"We shall only get to the future where SheDecides when we learn to promote, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of women and girls and create a supportive policy and social environment that support women and girls to thrive, survive and transform."
Meet Patrick Mwesigye, a tireless activist and youth leader from Uganda who is dedicating his life’s purpose to enhancing the reproductive rights of women and girls.
Read his full interview below
1. Tell us briefly why you are passionate about being involved with SheDecides?
I believe that all human beings including women and girls should have the freedom to exercise their fundamental rights of deciding freely and for themselves about their sexual lives, including whether, when and with whom and how many children they want to have. Regardless of several efforts by various stakeholder and partners, negative cultural, traditional and beliefs as well as conservative leaders have denied millions of millions of women and girls from exercising their reproductive rights.
SheDecides unlike many other Movements has become a rallying call for activists, young people, leaders and funders to stand up as a matter of urgency, speak out, change the rules and unlock resources to protect the rights, health, safety and livelihoods of millions of women and girls around the world.
It is for this reason that I am passionate on being involved with SheDecides because I want women and girls to decide so we can make the world better, stronger and safer for everybody.
2. What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls?
Today women and girls face multiple devastating challenges both socially and economically which continue to make them vulnerable to stigma and discrimination, preventable deaths disabilities and ill health. Today pregnancy and child birth-related complications are the leading causes of deaths for many adolescent girls and young women.
Women and girls are denied access to contraceptive services, Comprehensive Sexuality Education while still being undermined, discriminated against by many traditional societies and looked upon at as sex objects without agency. Denying women and girls their sexual rights has made them vulnerable to early and unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection especially among adolescent girls.
Lack of access to menstruation with dignity is also another challenged faced by many unprivileged girls form poor backgrounds. Basic necessities like sanitary towels, washing and disposable facilities are not widely available causing many girls opt to miss school during their periods. These are unacceptable in 2018.
3. Tell us a story of a moment that drives you to do what you do every day.
In 2015, I was in the field for a community drive aimed at creating demand for SRHR services among young women, when I met Nalongo. At 15, Nalongo was already a mother of one year old twins that she had a year earlier. Both the mother and babies looked malnourished and Nalongo had never used any contraceptives, neither did she know her HIV status. We referred to her to a youth friendly clinic that serves majority of Uganda’s Most at Risk populations. Here, she was tested for and cleared of HIV, as well as educated and put on long lasting reversible contraception.
Nalongo shortly trained for and became one of our peer educators. Today she is healthy, and serves as a senior peer educator, educating other girls on contraception use, pregnancy prevention and HIV. She also teaches her peers through community peer support groups about safe motherhood, breast feeding and proper nutrition for mothers and babies. Nalongo also refers girls to clinics in Uganda that provide safe abortion services and post abortion care support. She has now been trained in fashion design and is currently engaged in the production of re-usable sanitary towel with support from UYAHF.
Nalongo’s story drives me to reach out to many other girls to empower them to live quality lives with equity, dignity and opportunities to realize their full potential.
4. How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question?
We shall only get to the future where SheDecides when we learn to promote, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of women and girls and create a supportive policy and social environment that support women and girls to thrive, survive and transform.