Images: A. Parsons/i-Images for Action Against Hunger
"We help everyone who wants to talk to us"
Meet the inspiring peer educators transforming the lives of their friends and peers through training and raising awareness about reproductive health.
Sep 1 2017
This Autumn, join us as we help mums and mums-to-be to create healthier futures for themselves and their children. By supporting the Healthy Mums Healthy Kids appeal, you're helping them to stay healthy and give birth to healthy children. You're helping them learn how to provide the care and nutrition their children need. And you're helping children to grow up strong.
The UK Government will double all donations, so we can provide mums and children in Senegal with the nutrition and support they need to survive and thrive.
Imagine being a teenager and not knowing anything about family planning or reproductive health and the importance of a healthy diet.
In the UK, most of us are equipped at school with the knowledge and support we need to access information and confidential services on nutrition and health. However, for many teenagers in Matam situated in rural Senegal, this information is not readily available.
Thankfully, a group of passionate, determined young volunteers are helping to transform the lives of their friends and peers by training, educating and raising awareness about reproductive health.
“Complications from teen pregnancy, premature childbirth, unsafe abortion and sexually-transmitted diseases are a huge problem here. Yet many of our peers do not have access to the information and services they need to make their own choices about healthcare, family planning and marriage. If they had more information they could plan their futures accordingly,” explains Arona - one of the inspiring peer educators trained at the Youth Advice Centre in Matam.
Peer educators like Arona receive in-depth training from fellow peers, midwives and psycho-social workers. Together, they serve as role models for change and are helping to create brighter futures for their community.
“I was a scout before becoming a peer educator,” says Abdoulaye. “My friends used to ask me lots of questions about contraception and sexual health but I did not know how to answer their questions. Many of my peers have kids when they themselves are still very young. We do not learn about these topics at school. I was curious to find out more and came to the Youth Advice Centre and this is how I became a peer educator. I want to share my knowledge with my friends.”
Education on issues like safe sexual practice, HIV, early marriage and pregnancy draws on the credibility that young people have with their peers, leverages the power of role modelling, and provides flexibility in meeting the diverse needs of adolescents in Matam.
“We received a lot of training,” says Awa. “We prepare each session together as a group. We have become really good friends, people trust us because they know that everything they share with us is confidential and we do not discriminate – we help everyone who wants to talk to us. Our priority is to make everyone feel at ease. Only then can we help others.”
Oumou (23 ), Kadja (20 ), Awa (21 ), Abdoulaye (22 ), Arona (26) are peer educators at a youth advice centre in Senegal
The peer educators also support each other emotionally and practically.
“Sometimes our work can be challenging,” says Oumou. “A while ago, a pregnant girl came to talk to me. She was desperate and did not want to keep her unborn baby. We talked for a long time and I told her about the risks of having an illegal abortion, however she was so scared of her parents. I asked the president of our group for help and accompanied the girl to talk to her parents. The mum was against the pregnancy, but in the end she agreed to support her daughter and her unborn child.”
From their enthusiasm and open smiles, it is easy to see why Arona, Awa, Abdoulaye, Kadja and Oumou have been selected as volunteer peer educators. Despite the sensitive topics, they are comfortable to discuss them with their friends.
All of them want to have children in the future, but not for another few years.
“We are volunteers and we are very proud of what we do. We can see the impact of our work and the gratitude from the friends we help. This motivates us and we hope that the skills we acquire will help us establish a professional career in this area too.”
HOW #HEALTHYMUMSHEALTHYKIDS IS HELPING THE PEER EDUCATORS DO EVEN MORE
Action Against Hunger will work with the peer educators to develop an educational programme on nutrition so adolescents can learn more about the benefits of birth spacing and delaying pregnancies as well as the importance of healthy habits and good nutrition during pregnancy.
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