This was the award presentation day for the top 20 national winning contestants of the Global Dialogues Competition that attracted over 3000 entries earlier this year.
First there was a National Stakeholders forum on Youth and Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) & HIV which brought together parents, teachers, education policy makers, sexual and reproductive health professionals, law enforcement officers and the youth themselves who engaged in a conversation on these grave matters that are oftentimes overlooked or abdicated. They tried to find solutions on how to handle these issues.
The members of the jury of which I was part, formed a panel that presented the issues we observed from the submissions. Incidentally, the theme of this year’s International Day of the youth was “Youth and Mental Health” under the slogan ‘Mental Health Matters’.
Top on the observations was parental contribution and especially the African fathers and male figure to the well being of the youth. The manner of upbringing determines the mental state of many young people. In reality, more young people today are grappling with depression related conditions. Most of the scripts depicted the African male as hostile and the woman as a helpless victim.
The dialogues arising from these issues were heated and the forum gave a platform for young people to ask pertinent questions concerning their sexuality, with parents who were present. It emerged that some parents shy away from discussing sexuality with their children due to the African traditional society setting. This was a role taken by grandparents, a role that has been lost over the years with the urbanization of the nuclear family. The parents in turn expect the teachers to take this role while the teachers feel that they have a lot to handle educating these youngsters.
Among the recommendations made were that the school curriculum needed to be revised to accommodate comprehensive age appropriate sexuality education. The parents present acknowledged their failure on their part and recommendations were made on how to improve this.
The afternoon session involved the awarding of the 20 best scripts. Kenyan scripts also competed in the international platform and one of our own, Francis Mutua emerged among the best internationally.
We look forward to next year’s competition for the young people to express their voices again. We also expect a shift in policy and programming to provide relevant sexuality education to young people.
Photos borrowed from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/72740345@N03