Diane Umuhoza, a 16-year-old high school student in Kigali, thinks that one of the most common and pressing issues in schools regarding reproductive health is access to accurate information.
She thinks that lack of access to accurate information leads to making uninformed decisions at a young age that has lifetime negative impacts.
“Accessing correct SRHR (Sexual Reproduction Health and Rights) information from trusted sources has been a pressing issue for a long time and lack of it has far more reaching negative impacts than may seem,” she explains.
Umuhoza is one of the 45 high school students who attended the training organised by Health Development Initiative (HDI), a local NGO that seek to improve public health, under the theme “Training of next generation of advocates on Gender, SRHR and non-discrimination in schools.”
The training that took place in Kigali on Friday, October 16, brought together high school students from 23 secondary schools as a part of an already-existing partnership between the schools and HDI to promote SRHR information sharing and teaching.
The event aimed at equipping young advocates with more knowledge about SRHR services in relation to human rights.
Umuhoza thinks that such eye-opening training will go a long way in addressing issues of stigma and lack of information on SRHR in schools.
“I personally learnt a lot from the training especially about menstrual cycle tracking for girls, human rights generally and specifically laws favoring girl children,” she explained.
Elie Bizimana, another high school student who attended the training, echoed Umuhoza’s point that SRHR discussions in schools are limited by cultural biases, which lead to stigma and lack of information.
“In addition to other subtly contributing barriers, accessing SRHR information in schools is still a barrier given that it is still not as freely discussed as it should be. There are also barriers such as lack of facilities and skills by schools,” he said.
Marie-Ange Uwase, Director of the Center for Health and Rights, told The New Times that the purpose of the training is to raise awareness and train future generations more on SRHR.
She added that there are still issues in schools concerning SRHR and basic rights that should be discussed.
“The aim is to inform future generations more about SRHR and human rights in that regard to ensure that problems that exist today about lack of information and stigma around SRHR will not be faced in the future,” she said.
This training came two weeks after HDI’s training of 45 teachers on CSE and gender-responsive pedagogy to support them with delivery of accurate, rights-based and good quality comprehensive sexuality education that provides knowledge, values, and skills essential for safer behaviors, reduced adolescent pregnancy, and increased gender equality.
Uwase explained that before the Covid-19 pandemic, HDI interacted with more students in schools and trained them on the same topic.
Today, however, since physical gatherings are discouraged as part of the measures to fight the virus, the training takes place in small manageable groups.
“Covid-19 has disrupted our outreach programmes including reaching students in their schools but we managed to gather a relatively small number in the last few months,” she explained.
The trained cohort was the second after 49 other high school students who were similarly trained by HDI on SRHR and non-discrimination in schools.