Let us put back the ‘friendly’ in youth friendly centers

Let us put back the ‘friendly’ in youth friendly centers

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The COVID19 pandemic has revealed now more than ever the importance of accessing accurate health information and services without stigma and discrimination.

The need for Youth Friendly Centers (YFC) has never been more urgent, spaces where adolescents can comfortably have open and candid conversations about their health and get help before it is too late.

I recently had a conversation with a policy maker regarding adolescent and young people youth friendly center and to my surprise he said ‘‘but we have a youth empowerment center around why do we need a youth friendly center?”

I had to make him understand young people also need spaces where they can access sexual and reproductive health and rights information and services, spaces where they can express themselves without the fear of unknown.

The youth need spaces where they can have open and candid conversations with their peers, spaces where they can have discussions on contraception options that will allow them to make informed choices, especially adolescent and young women who are left with the burden of raising a baby when they are not prepared mentally.

When adolescents and young people have information they tend to make informed choices on either abstaining or using prevention if they have to have pre-marital sex. This in return prevents them from unwanted pregnancies which in return may lead to them accessing to unsafe and illegal abortion services.

With new information technology it’s even harder for them to keep up with the changes, not to mention some of them imposing their religious beliefs and norms that makes adolescent and young people.

This results in young people not enjoying freedom of what happens to their bodies due to fear of being judged and possibility of being denied the services mainly because they identify as either gender minority, sex workers, persons living with HIV or persons with disabilities.

We acknowledge most of our facilities have youth corners but they are just corners because its either they are out of stock or the services providers are very unfriendly. As the name suggests, youth friendly centers need to actually be “friendly”.

I call on the government to set aside funds, prioritize  and  implement policies that support existence of fully functioning youth friendly centers that provide youth friendly services.

Ms Akinyi is a NAYA youth advocate