Changing the Narrative: UNPYA Y+ Summit
Changing the Narrative: UNPYA Y+ Summit
Blog by Babirye Mary Rio, Program Officer/Communications and Public Relations Officer at PITCH Partner UNYPA (Uganda Network of Young People Living With HIV/AIDS)
Everything must start somewhere, and the big idea of Changing the Narrative in 2020 started at the Y+ Summit at Hotel Africana Kampala in Uganda. We officially opened the 4th edition of the Y+ Summit on 17 March 2020, welcoming 280 participants, with 263 being young people living with HIV.
The original plan, as was for the past 3 years of the summit, was to have 3 days of inspired learning, sharing and fun at this iteration of the Y+ Summit. However, with the advent of the global pandemic due to COVID-19, we were pushed to work with what we had: two days. As young people, we love to work with the changing times. In the spirit of ‘Carpe Diem’, we set out to have the most enjoyable 2 days in this part of the year.
The Y+ Summit 2020 started in spectacular fashion, welcoming young people living with HIV from all corners of the country. These young people immediately set about laying down expectations for the summit, placing ground rules, catching up and snapping these moments because, after all, they only come once in a while.
The theme of the first day of the summit was Gender Equality and Women Empowerment and featured an array of some of the most influential women in Uganda’s Health sector. In the lead was Lillian Mworeko from International Community of Women living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) with her session on Ending Violence against Women and Girls. Also featured was Amy Cunningham, PEPFAR Country Coordinator, who urged young people to be resilient and always be proactive.
We were also glad to have Prof Maggie Kigozi, a renowned business guru and the Chairperson of the Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism in Uganda. It was inspiring how she tied her knowledge from the world of business to young people on the lines of Gender Equality. She talked about forgiveness and determination, adding that at the end of the day all young people “will end up in business regardless of their gender or status”. To wrap it up, the Executive Director of the Alliance of Women Advocating for Change (AWAC) Kyomya Mclean took to the podium to highlight gender awareness in detail. It is hard to let go of a day that enlightens you so much about gender equality, especially when it is with people who have such immense knowledge and experience. We closed a successful day and readied ourselves for the next day.
The second day of the summit focused on the improvement of livelihoods of young people living with HIV. We were talking advocacy - the multiple tools, techniques and objectives of advocacy that actually bring about change. Another thing we loved so much about this day was its great display of partnerships between us and like-minded organisations. For example, the first session on “Media as a tool for advocacy” was conducted by Ibrahim Waiswa Batambuze, the Communications Manager at Reach A Hand Uganda. Following him, Bridget Kezaabu of the Uganda Youth And Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) shed light on the progress of adolescent health. Finally, up stepped Charles Owekmeno, the National Coordinator of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Alliance in Uganda, who gave tips on how to become smart advocates.
On top of all these facilitated sessions, we had breakaway sessions on personal empowerment topics such as personal hygiene, financial literacy, male involvement in ending VAWG (violence against women and girls), SGBV (sex- and gender-based violence) and the Law, SGBV and religion, and life skills development.
The summit wrapped up with abstract presentations, among which our reigning Mr Y+ Micheal Ballack Ssenyonga (one of the winners of last year’s “Mr and Ms Y+” competitions) talked about “50-50” for gender equality:
We look forward to a society with equality at 50% for both men and women. If the organisation has 5 female employees, it should have 5 males as well. That is why we have 1 Mr Y+ and 1 Miss Y+. This is the vision
From here on, we move to do greater things, but first we request everyone to keep safe, sanitize and protect themselves from contracting COVID-19 by following the available guidelines. If indeed we are to fight HIV, we need everyone safe, healthy and on board.