As COVID-19 begun to spread in many more countries including Uganda, the Government initiated a nationwide lockdown against the backdrop of up-to 50 directives that impacted livelihoods, health services, education systems, global supply chains to mention but a few. Access to health services by the youth was a huge challenge at the time, thus leading to a deterioration in their Sexual and Reproductive Health especially for women and girls on top of the significant barriers they experienced pre-COVID-19.
Due to these measures, there has been an upsurge in unwanted teenage pregnancies exacerbated by the closure of schools, limited access on how to access SRH information and services at home. Further to that, there was an upsurge in Sexual and Gender based violence across the country.
Vital resources were reallocated away from Sexual and Reproductive Health services, schools and community centres were closed leading to the inability of young women and girls being unable to access comprehensive sexuality education. This was further amplified by the lack of access to digital tools for those from marginalised and poor households for instances where learning was moved online.
All these challenges have led to the need to develop innovative approaches that can work at scale and ensure that young people have access to SRHR & GBV information and services. The Up Accelerate Social Innovation Incubator seeks to support young people to be at the centre of proposing solutions to these SRHR and GBV challenges in their community that they can later transform into social enterprises.
In this call for innovative ideas, we have focused on receiving solutions across the following challenge areas:
How might we improve access to Sexual Reproductive Health information and services for young people (including refugees) especially girls and women out of school?
These are specific thematic areas to guide our innovators on how they can develop cutting edge ideas:
- Access to comprehensive sexuality information at home :
Vital Comprehensive sexuality education was largely disseminated through schools. The closure of schools means that many school going youth started missing out on vital information. This problem is further compounded by the fact that caregivers or guardians at home do not have the necessary support on how to provide sexuality education to their children.
- Leveraging accessible digital tools to provide SRH services and information :
Resource-scare and rural populations have restricted access to digital information and public services more broadly. Coupled with COVID-19 mobility measures that impact food security, these groups will face difficulty obtaining health information, education and services — including sexual and reproductive health care — as well as protecting themselves from the virus. Further to that, any shift to online learning does not include comprehensive sexuality education.
- Increasing access to Menstrual Hygiene Management supplies and sanitation (WASH)
School closures not only interrupt education, but also restrict access to school nutrition and health programs; limit information on disease prevention, including pregnancy and contraception; suspend options for clean water and sanitation; and contribute to increased rates of SGBV and teenage pregnancy.
- Misinformation on COVID-19 limited access to SRHR services
Misinformation about COVID-19 and its transmission has led to fear of young people seeking Sexual and Reproductive health services from health service delivery points.
Potential opportunity areas:
- Increased access to youth sensitive mental health and psychosocial support
Due to the impact of COVID-19, a number of young people have lost access to their source of livelihood. Further to that, the lack of positive coping mechanisms like community centres, sports activities to mention but a few have led to the increased adoption of negative coping mechanisms that include alcohol and drug abuse, self harm and other harmful practices.
- Increasing access to support services for sexual and gender based violence
Young women and girls are at higher risk of experiencing GBV, intimate partner violence, or sexual exploitation. Many young women and girls are forced to “lock down” with their abusers while their access to support services is severely disrupted.