We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by  Chido Machawira, Harare Zimbabwe

So, I’ve been in the house for 5 weeks now, and honestly it hasn’t been so bad. As someone who is fairly comfortable being alone, the thought of a few weeks without physically contacting anyone outside of my immediate family wasn’t terrible. Quarantine has been many things for me: Its given me time. So much time to rest and work on myself; which is a gift in itself. Ive been keeping myself busy. Another thing Quarantine taught me was that boredom is a choice, a choice which I’ve seldom found myself taking comfort in. In the first week, I  honed in my cooking skills- from making spring rolls for lunch and apple crumble for dessert, I’ve definitely had a loads of fun in the kitchen. The second week began with my mom dragging me out of bed in the morning for a 4 km walk. This turned into a ritual which takes place every morning. Every. Morning. Not my favourite part of the day- but I’m enjoying spending more time with my mom, especially before I go to University. 
Week 3 found us in the garage; searching for board games and puzzles to entertain ourselves with. We found a 30 seconds and played for hours. This week I wanted to do something productive- so I signed up for an online course. When you sign up for one, you open yourself to a myriad of opportunities as a result of which I’ve been participating in at least one free webinar a week. During Week four, my parents took turns taking my brother and I around the neighbourhood driving- I’ve gotten lots of practice so, the first thing I’m doing once I’m allowed to leave the house is getting my drivers license! 
That brings us to this week, week five. This week I’ve been taking it quite easy- waking up early (no morning runs, thank the pope) and laying in bed. I have become quite aquatinted with Netflix lately- and am managing to finish a season of a show in two days. This skill isn’t very easy to attain; but I’ve mastered it. 
Overall- its been a good five weeks. Could I go on for five more? Lets just assume that if I do; I’ll go to university with a few degrees. One in culinary arts, Literature, and Netflix. Oh- and a six pack. 

We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by Nelson Uyirwoth, UGANDA

Life in a Covid-19 world

It’s Friday 20th march 2020, time check 12:00 am. My family and I are glued to the TV eagerly waiting on the Ministry of health’s national address. We are all anxious and hoping for the best from the address. Unfortunately, the Minister, Dr. Ruth Acheng broke the bad news to us that the country has registered its first COVID 19 case. Suddenly, silence ensued our worst fears had come to our motherland and our clean sheet lost.  I had just traveled back from Nairobi, Kenya, and was still monitoring my health for any possible exposure to the dreaded coronavirus via the airport. Then, boom I switched into panic mode even though  I had not experienced any symptoms. Life was no longer going to be the same since we were asked to adopt the stay-home policy to flatten the curve.

Staying home was no problem for me as I was eager to have all the sleep I had longed for and enough time with my family. This also came along with other benefits such as no more squander expenditure on transport, night outs and the lavish restaurant meals. But, alas, it also came along with getting used to taking breakfast and lunch late, getting used to life without free Wi-Fi, doing some of the house chores, and working from home.

Talking of working from home, this is quite hard yet underestimated. My employer instructed us to start doing all operations from home with immediate effect. Lucky for us we had a business continuity plan in place which has guided us on what critical business functions need extra attention during this period. Because of COVID 19, I  no longer enjoy the cool workplace lunch and the aura of being in a work environment. My life is now stuck into weekly zoom meetings and weekly activity reports. Let’s all face it, human productivity at home is quite minimal compared to the office space and managers are now facing it hard to keep their teams motivated. The uncertainty is high and the news reports on multiplying cases just add salt to the wound. My personal advice is, do not consume multiple news reports in intervals but however watch the major bulletins at least twice a day to tame the anxiety.

Two weeks into the lockdown, sleep is no longer a dream, each day looks like a weekend. My phone is my close pal always keeping me engaged and glued to my social media platforms. The side effects of the lockdown are starting to unravel   Laziness has seized me yet I have quite a workload on my computer and various books I had prepared to read during this period. My small clothing business is no longer operational and my salary is threatened by a pay cut.

I really need all the motivation I can get during this period to keep me going  So I opt to watch various motivational videos on YouTube by Goalcast. These greatly opened my thinking and vision beyond the uncertainty that had consumed me. I have a personal vision book where I write all my plans for the New Year and the future. I often look at it and tick off whatever accomplishment I make in life.  Well, the current pandemic was unexpected but it is not going to deviate me from the big picture. I have drafted a personal daily work schedule that guides me through the lockdown.  One of the major adjustments I have made is never to wake up late anymore since most of my days were unproductive due to the vice.  Ashna Kaur Mehta once said “When you wake up late the day goes to waste so why not get up quickly and see the progress so swiftly.” I have embraced the new way of life and I hope to overcome it.

The pandemic and the lockdown is a great time to reflect on our lives, what careers we are pursuing as young people? Will you be an essential part of society in the future? Are you saving and investing in essential sectors that can withstand future global threats? Remember, time is the major asset that each one of us has and how we spend it will determine our course of life.

Stay safe, wash your hands and pray.

We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by Kelvin Kinuthia W. Kenya

What does the future hold? That’s a simple question that lingers in every young person’s mind. A question that acts as a drive in their day to day lives as they accomplish their ambitions. That being said, it is noteworthy that the hope for a better future is key to the productivity of the population. As simple as sounds  the question, ‘what does the future hold?’ the mystery behind it makes things more complicated. Especially during this COVID 19 pandemic period as it eats up into the mental health of all persons globally. The ramifications as we’ve witnessed in my community  witnessed are an increase in the rates of depression and anxiety cases. The worst case scenarios being a number of suicides and Gender Based Violence. The vulnerable cohort has been adversely affected, more so the disabled as ways to get basic needs and reliable information on COVID 19 keep shrinking. A heartbreaking increase in the number of teenage pregnancies has also been reported. When all this is fired up by the jobs lost, poverty and dreams lost the hope for a better future seems like a fairy tale.

With all these challenges facing my community, my schedule has been a beehive of activities aimed at reviving the much needed hope that appears to be lost. A description of my single day pretty much summarizes my life during this pandemic. As a trending saying goes, ‘every day is every day.’ Weird to say, but my everyday schedule is dubbed #MentalHealthCheckList.

My day starts at 5 AM. I am a member of the 5 AM club and have over the time managed to influence a number of young people from our estate to join. Our first hour of the day is composed of vigorous exercises and meditation. We do this together to act as each other’s accountability partner. Of course we observe the guidelines provided to prevent COVID 19 infection. We wash our hands, maintain distance and put on our masks. We take this time also to share our experiences during this pandemic. The 5 Am club has grown to be a well-functioning support group.

The remaining part of my morning is personal, to relax and carry out some chores. This is the time I use to exploit my God given talent to create content that creates awareness, educates and entertains on various life aspects especially mental health and COVID 19. The content is purposed to be posted on my social media platforms where I’ve built a brand as an actor, Viner , comedian and graphic designer. This therefore involves rigorous script writing, filming, creation of posters and video editing.

The actual sensitization happens in the afternoon as I post content on my social media platforms (inclusive of FB, Youtube, Instagram, TikTok and twitter. I then engage in the conversations being carried out by various organizations on the said social media platforms. I’ve grown fond of these discussions as I get a chance to share my ideas and also learn.

I and a team of young people from various Kenyan Universities also take time to lead such discussions on a health app dubbed RADA App. RADA App is health mobile app that we developed in conjunction with University of Nairobi and UNESCO. We extend our discussions to Facebook, Twitter and Watsap where we’ve built a community of young people and professionals ready to be activists of whatever  challenge that affects the society. The discussions have proved to be fruitful as young people are more aware of how to stay safe from COVID 19 and handle their mental health. One strategy that has proved useful is where we come up with thematic hashtags and raise dialogues around them. Our main areas of focus are COVID 19, mental health, Sexual and reproductive health, Gender Based Violence, nutrition among others. We’re champions for spreading reliable information from trusted sources on COVID 19.

Evening’s in the African culture are believed to be family time, especially currently as the Kenyan government has imposed a mandatory curfew from 7:00 pm. I took this positively and decided to not only spend time with my family, but also try expand the family. Evening’s for me therefore are spent establishing more personal conversations and interactions. ZOOM has proved a resourceful digital tool in this. I pass my sincere gratitude to the various organisations and professionals that have partnered with us in coming up with the themes of these discussions and moderate them. As a famous saying goes, ‘A problem shared is half solved.

I would therefore with sincere appreciation say that averagely I reach out to more than 2000 young people every day.

These comes with its challenges though. The most relatable one is waking up in the morning. It’s the rainy season and so the thought of waking up sometimes can be unbearable. However, just like I had stated earlier, we have accountability partners.

Moreover, reaching out to young people online is challenging since DATA for internet is expensive. To  add salt to the injury,  a limited number of young people have smart devices. We are therefore aware that as we sensitize there is a percentage of young people left out. This affects us also as the internet is not so strong from our area of operation and therefore keeps buffering  as we hold discussions. This sometimes lead to delay in between discussions which is disorderly and tiring. We are looking into our strategy to see how we can reach them.

Lastly as much as I use social media with good intentions, it can prove detrimental to my health. Addiction to social media is a potential threat to my mental health and well being. I therefore have to look for ways to moderate my exposure, which proves  hard since I strongly feel that the world needs me more than ever. I need to put myself out there and support young people in realizing that the future is as bright as we want it to be.

I call upon every young person to use every means available to reach out and offer a hand to a vulnerable soul. Together we can make through this. Together we can figure out what really it is that the future holds.

Lots of Love.

We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by Wongani Mwasinga, Malawi

It was the no shaking hands rule that grabbed most of my attention to this disease as I thought of how Malawians will cope with this rule with their love of handshakes as a form of greeting. I did not put much thought into COVID-19 for I did not see any future of it reaching Africa or Malawi to be specific even though quarantine was called. The disease spread faster like it was cancerous and before I knew it it had hit Zambia that Is when i finally realized that Malawi was next in line.

Even though I fully understood that life in quarantine means that the progression of the disease will be reduced and the number of newly found cases will drop as people are being more careful by exercising all the rules necessary, still the idea of it wasn’t my best cup of tea. Despite my hate for quarantine it has worked to my advantage as well as my fellow Malawians because there is no more overcrowding in public places in my country which has led to a better way of preventing the disease.

As a final year student, life in quarantine has been devastating especially for my fellow students and I in a way that it has caused closure of schools with no notified time of resumption of studies. The delay in resuming of studies will cause me to lose focus on studies as studying is now replaced with household chores. This is causing boredom because I have been delayed in finishing school as quarantine has caused a change in the school’s academic calendar.

This set back in my studies has not only affected me alone but it has also taken a torn on my parents, since they had a clear picture that their daughter will be finishing school very soon and now the picture is no longer there. Despite school being my center of concern, C0VID-19 has brought about anxiety in my family in a sense that once one family member leaves the house there is always fear of him or her being infected with the virus. It has also been hard for my family to adapt to the new form of living standards as we were used to church on Sundays and now not going to church every Sunday has been a battle for us.

Despite Covid-19 affecting my life both positively and negatively, I have learned a lot of things about myself in this quarantine period as I had to look at the brighter side of this situation. Firstly, this situation has taught me to believe in myself by using this ample time to catch up on academic areas that I was unable to grasps during lectures. This has also helped me to start living healthily through daily exercise routines that have helped me to be more disciplined and patient in following the routines. Despite the fact that COVID-19 has caused countless of deaths in most countries of the world at large, it is still important to exercise the rules required such as washing hands with soap at all times, use of hand sanitizer as some of the measures to prevent the spread and contracting of the virus.

We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by Mark Chris Kayizzi, Peer Educator with Reach a Hand Uganda

Many unwritten rules are deeply rooted in Uganda’s diverse culture and these account for what is considered the acceptable code of conduct. Collective approval is very important to many and on several occasions responsible for one’s persona. For many youths, a different social circle always calls for a different representation of personality, some more than others.

Majority of young people’s social life in the Ugandan setting is accounted for in peer circles; much of a young person’s time is spent in a school setting, with a structure of 7, 6 and 3 to 5 years in primary, secondary and post-secondary school respectively. In my time in school; I spent over 75% of day time in this structure. A cycle of class from 8 am to 4:40 pm for primary and secondary level, but it was worthwhile, because I got to spend it with peers. There are a number of changes at post-secondary levels but all in all, almost all youth lifetime is spent in contact with peers.

With limited interaction with parents or older guardians, one may suggest that youth behavior and lifestyle is largely shaped through peer social learning. During this time bonds are created, experiences shared, knowledge and information are transmitted in these small circles of trust, but what happens when these circles/routines are broken? If quickly surveyed very few youths can easily confide in their parents or guardian figures with matters regarding their sexual reproductive health or rights and even matters of life choices in general.

Almost abruptly, many youths have been placed into new routines as a result of the lockdown. This has not only affected our social intimacies, but I have also come to develop a very cordial relationship for my laptop, discovered I can spend countless hours staring a screen as much as I can spend the same time writing something or jogging my mind, for many others their “laptop relationship” may be different by many of the lockdown activities do surely rotate around technology, it may actually hide us from the world more than it connects us to the world and why not, the lock-down as a result of the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19, is a blessing and a curse.

A Curse!

Many parents are “rigid”, true to the norms and usually quick to dismiss young people’s claims to sexual or Reproductive rights to services and most especially to correct and relevant information, some are simply shy to talk while others do not think it is necessary to discuss such matters and would rather stick to conversations on economic development, academic excellence or just the recurring presidential addresses, with no readily available listening ears most youths have and at a verge of a mental breakdown once in a while, picture a young person suffering a urinary tract infection, but is not able to share openly to their one provider of financial support to seek healthcare because it will be thought that the disease is as a result of sexual transmission, I place this at the forefront because the aspects of life and lifestyle presented by Sexual Reproductive health and Rights as a concept of human rights are capable of shaping behavior and building a harmonious relationship between traditional culture and youth culture.

I have personally sat/laydown for countless hours on some days with my mind heavy with nothing but a question “what next?” I am certain many youths in the post-secondary school stage of their lives have had the same run through their minds because it’s an always recurring question in conversation among youth peers. With a dependency ratio in the country being about 103 per 100 working-age adults according to United Nations Population Fund fact sheets on Ugandan youth and high unemployment rates among youth, not because of low qualifications but simply lack opportunities, the lockdown has seen through a significant breakdown in some industries, mainly trade which is one most taken backup plans.

The lockdown has contributed a noteworthy influence communication gap in families despite being closer to each other physically, different mind spaces and priorities exist for the different members of families, for interpersonal communication to work it is vital that parties are discussing and concentrating on the same topic at a time only then can they both listen, however as a young person worries about their graduation timeline, many family heads are worried about the next meal and how they may catch up with the development setbacks, this affects the holistic state of minds in individuals and undermines the role of families in creating support systems

A Blessing!

Physical availability is one of the best ways to mend bonds, learn and unlearn, and for the lockdown, it means a chance to strike a balance between traditional norms and the modern-day youth values, the youth these days require that they make choices on their own and are allowed space for mistake, social norms are much easier to agree on if two different generations understand the importance attached to them by one another, with physical availability, widespread information sources, and sharing, myth-busting mostly in regards to SRHR is much easier, the lockdown hence provides that opportunity in the form of abundance in time.

For me and a couple of friends, this has been a time for self-reflection, goal setting and self-realization, the once full plate of social events, school programs, being socially absorbed is all now replaced with online chats, movie days, or sleep in days. The lockdown has provided an opportunity for us to realize our values and norms, outside the social bubble, we realize what choices we want to make, where we want to be and where we would like to restructure if possible.

Throughout the lockdown, I have appreciated the problem-solving capabilities of the human race, there has been a large victory in technology innovations all to make the digital space our new reality and keep up with work schedules and deadlines, many companies have had the chance through experience to appreciate technology as part of the future and a necessity.

Time in the lockdown and the pandemic has come with very many lessons,  however the main take away as a country is a chance to appreciate that most diseases are preventable and most diseases are preventable through basic proper hygiene and lifestyle choices, we also see the importance of social cooperation in epidemic, pandemic and endemic response, proper containment of the COVID -19 pandemic has involved a large structure, and this same structure can be used in the fight against the main endemic diseases in the country, with collective social efforts and better health systems.

Let us stay safe and follow the health guidelines, for health is the most true wealth.

We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by Lucy Nyoro, Kenya

Its 6:48pm and I’m in town. It’s the first week of curfew and it’s serious. I’m from checking up on a friend of mine who’s going through a hard time, and I’m thinking that should count as important. People are running around town trying to beat the time, the police sirens sound and it’s like an awakening even to those who seemed a little reluctant. I will beat the curfew, I’m sure of that, because I have walked this same distance for months now. But you don’t just walk when everyone is running, so I start pacing. A police officer is walking towards his car and as he opens the door, I am passing by and he asks if he can drop me home. Of course I say no, because mama said don’t talk to strangers and that is always the first instinct with strangers. He insists, but so do I, and that is where my running begins. I’m trying to keep calm and not panic with all the chaos, but it’s harder when there’s nothing normal about what’s going on. Moi Avenue is deserted; no cars, no people, all clubs and restaurants closed, and it’s eerily quiet, so I keep running. Haile Selassie Avenue is deserted too, but as a Mercedes Benz with a police officer, I assume, since its windows are rolled up, zooms past me into the distance with sirens on, I relax a bit. I take one stupid video, say a few things and think to myself, “If by any chance I die on the street, those who know me will know my voice.” Then I’m running home again. I get to my house on time, like I knew I would. I even have some minutes to spare with all the running. I’m not sure I make dinner that day, although I feel somewhat relaxed that my body wasn’t stuck in a room for a whole other day.

The effect isn’t long-lasting though. And soon enough I need to leave the house again. I’ve had a whole day indoors. I’m trying to keep myself distracted on social media. I can’t focus enough to watch a movie or read a book or cook. So I need something that doesn’t need all that much attention. I’m flipping through Facebook and twitter and instagram, sometimes Whatsapp. Soon enough its evening, and I’m worried that it’s going to be a long night. I’m not sure if I’m worried about something in particular or just everything. So I take a really long cold shower, dress and go for a walk. I take a route I’ve never taken before. I have two hours until curfew, but really, it’s not that important at the moment. I play some music and walk. Lower Hill, to Upper Hill, through some routes I’ve not taken before. I know I’m not very good with specific directions, so I’m relying with my instinct and general direction knowledge that I will be able to make it in time. Its calming, liberating and I just walk in the middle of the road and sing. Calm down, I’m not trying to get hit by a car; the road is literally deserted thanks to curfew and lockdown. Again, I’m home just a minute before curfew. Walking back home, I had so many people offering a ride. I cannot decide whether humanity is just stronger now, or maybe there was just someone who thought this would be the best opportunity to kidnap someone and lock them up in the basement of their house, so just like my mum taught me, I pass, with a full on smile. I love to smile.

Days have started fading into each other and I have to constantly check my phone to see what day it is. Last Sunday, I was talking to my mum while pacing up and down outside the hospital, and she told me how they had a service at home before going to work. That’s my mother. She’ll work even on days she should rest, she’ll work when everyone else is too tired to keep working. She’ll work on Sunday after church and say Jesus said not to leave a donkey in the pit simply because it’s Sabbath. As I start to write this article, its Monday night. I don’t actually write, I just turn on my laptop but the temptation to have a chat with my best friend even after we’ve spent the whole week and the one before that together is more enticing. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, but then again, I love to chat too, so I leave my laptop on the floor in the living room and go to bed. I’ll get up early, I tell myself, or maybe, I won’t actually fall asleep and I’ll sip some soda, assume its wine and write with the illusion of a page-turning fantasy. Instead, my body betrays me and I end up deep asleep. I do wake up, sometime in the middle of the night and sometime just before morning light. In both times, I have no idea what woke me up, but I have a feeling I was not having a pleasant dream.

On one of the early days, just before the borders closed, my best friend and her mum were travelling back from India. I went to the airport to pick them up, together with her sister, dad and uncle. We drove home together, and the most disappointing bit was that the only way I could show them love was not to hug them, and I love hugs. I couldn’t even shake their hands, it was all Namaste as if we were preparing for a yoga workout session.

I spent days indoors, not leaving the house except to grab a few fresh vegetables for dinner. I was working then, so it was a little easier for me. There’s nothing quite like working in a sleeping gown. But I get tired of routine. To make matters worse, I was reading about the Spanish flu and somehow, I knew it would be a long time before I could see my family again. So, I talk to them every day. My mum has a routine of calling me every day, and even as everything changes, that has remained a constant. In more ways than she’ll ever know, she has gotten me through tough days just by hearing her voice on the other end of the line and knowing that even as everything changes, her love never did.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of quarantine with my best friend. On a normal day, we would be playing dress up, I’d be her make-up muse, we’d dance to random songs playing loudly in the speaker, making a new recipe and catching up on all we’ve missed in each other’s life. But this time has not been a normal day at all, and it’s not an easy time either. She jokes that she’s been in quarantine for six months, or maybe it’s not a joke. But then again, that’s her story. We’ve been in and out of hospital in this period, and I have come to hate neutral soothing colors: light blue, beige, light green…I’m sure I don’t want to see those colors in my house, ever. They’re not a bad choice, but every time I see them, I remember looking at a hospital wall, trying to detach myself from all the pain and suffering around me, because there is nothing I can do to ease it, and I don’t want to experience that. Being in a cancer center and watching the patients’ faces with little radiance, I try to imagine, how radiant they must have been once. I look at their family members and how tired their faces look, and suddenly I’m overwhelmed with the need to cheer everyone up. I want us to sing a song in the hallways of this hospital, I want us to shout and dance like this is the only moment that counts, because truly, it is the only moment we can be sure of. I want to hug everyone, and tell them everything will be okay, but I don’t know that and corona has said no hugs. So I stare at the wall; beige, light blue, light green…until it’s our turn to see the doctor, or time to leave again.

I have learnt to appreciate technology lately. I’m not exactly a fan, so you won’t find me with the latest model of everything in my house, but I have learnt to appreciate the little things that are no longer so little or irrelevant. At least once every week, I see some of my friends I haven’t seen in a while. Seeing them all together is different in a way from seeing one at a time. And so, thanks to zoom, I can do that. It’s a safe space. We talk, we plan, we share we play games and we laugh. For two hours or so, we experience the feeling that we’re all together and nothing much has changed.

When you’re stuck in a place with no hope of leaving soon, you need something to look forward to, something that gives you reason to wake up, but then, I guess that’s every day of life. So, I found something to do that did not entail me cooking food for myself. Before lockdown, I was working on, together with other committee members, bringing Amazing Minds Africa to UON. With corona, other than studies coming to a standstill, and everyone finding a way to cope, other projects came to a standstill too. We agreed as a team to find a way around corona, because now more than ever, our mental health was at stake. That’s how we started virtual buddy groups on zoom. And in more ways than one, this move has been life-changing.

Quarantine and lockdown is not exactly a good thing. It is tough, it makes you feel desperate, but it’s also made me appreciate the little things. I have learnt to appreciate moments. And celebrate small victories, like finishing work on time, going for a walk or a drive, sitting outside in the sun, watching the stars and most importantly good health. I have learnt to be thankful that I can hold my breath and smell roses, that I can taste wine and that I can enjoy a good song without pain in my lungs or stomach. And more than anything, I have learnt that we need each other, appreciate each other and be thankful for little things.

We’re excited to host young guest bloggers on the Young People Today site for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for their stories!

Written by Kariuki Mbuthia NAKURU, KENYA

Life has taken rather an unusual turn by the expectations of most people world over since the invasion of this formidable enemy that has rubbished most of the security global security measures. An enemy that is no respecter of national boundaries, international waters nor airspaces.It has ravaged through the globe and gluttonously claimed life indiscriminately and now normal is what we are craving for. But we can say that this has not completely taken us by surprise especially for the lovers of fiction movies like myself. I have watched quite a number of movies with apocalyptic themes. Top on my list is The last ship – a series that almost  depicts our current situation ,where the world ills from a pandemic that kills more than half the world’s population and the remnant remain in conflict between those who survived the disease due to natural immunity and those that never contracted the disease for they never got exposed. This clearly shows film makers had seen such a thing coming. It has also been said that the only revolution that was yet to happen was a biological revolution and here we are.

Talking of craving for the normal may seem like an understatement actually considering what it means. We all agree that we want to go back to our lives, to our routine. Having a well laid out plan for the whole day, whole week and consequently the whole year. The uncertainty that has befallen humanity is just too much a change. Ghost towns is the new normal that we have refused to come to terms with. The villages are no better!

In most African countries the villages are home to the elderly who can’t stomach the hustle and bustle of the urban settings and Kenya is no different. Just like many other students around the world I can’t be at school due to the obvious reasons –physical distancing which so far remains among the few weapons in our arsenal that are working against COVID-19. Furthermore schools must be available for the makeshift hospitals in case the worst comes to the worst and hospitals are overrun. Now I am in the village. In the first few days all I did all day long was following up the news in both local and international media .It was doing more harm than good! Within the first week of staying at home I had done some panic shopping because it seemed like lockdown was imminent  ironically it’s been more than a month now, all I had bought is spent and yet we haven’t gotten to that point. You see, that is what over consuming news can do! Making rush decisions and adding to the mental torture that most of us are already going through. Myself I have resulted to watching the prime time news only and keeping myself busy throughout the day. The onset of the long rains comes with a whole bee hive of activities in my place for it means the planting season. The past two weeks have been extremely busy for my mother, brother and I. We now have to do all the work by ourselves because farm hands are not very available. Most of them are not willing to move around working for the fear of contracting this virus.

It goes without saying that mistrust is all over especially in the villages where the old folk dwell. It is in the public domain that the virus is harsh to the elderly and they have all the reasons to be afraid considering what is happening in Europe with the aging population. To me this a blessing in disguise for it would be extremely difficult to deny my neighbours work and it would be even more difficult to exercise social distancing with workers around. With all this work I can now put my mind to rest and my muscles to work.

Yeah that is how it works here, with manual work the brain does so little! I don’t realize the passing of time either and without realizing it evening comes I eat, feed my dogs, watch some news that I seldom follow to the end before drifting off to slumber.

I never thought I would be able to appreciate this kind of life but you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have, furthermore every cloud has a silver lining and it is not very wise to punish myself over things I have no control over. I have always wanted to plant trees in the farm and around the compound I realized this might just be the right time. With the rains here with us in plenty and lots of time to myself .I have just finished planting over a hundred trees .A hundred and five to be exact and another lot of a hundred and ten are waiting for more land to be prepared.

I have also had something for apiculture (Bee farming) for quite some time but I have been preoccupied and distracted by lots of other activities. I now have a single bee hive .I guess this project among other activities around here will keep me sane until the end of this pandemic. It is import for all the young people around the globe to use this time to execute those ideas they have been shelfing each other time for lack of time and avoid too much news. We should just do as we are instructed and all will be well. For some it might feel like house arrest but for others they see it as ample time to release pressure. Let us try be the latter. It is also very important to note that our mental health will be put to test during this trying time and if we do not be careful enough we might breakdown. “We might be apart but not alone” I know it’s almost a cliché now but doesn’t make it any less true. I believe this is the time to fortify oneself with tones of positive vibes. We have social media, let’s use it to remain connected share our greatest worries and hopes and we shall surely sail through and tell the story together post CORONA.

Around 75 % of the population in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is under the age of 35. Young people in this region remain one of the most vulnerable and affected groups in the areas of HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender inequality.

SADC Member States have made strong commitments to put young people at the centre of their development efforts and strengthen investments in young people’s SRHR within several global, continental and regional frameworks, working towards ending AIDS by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  

It is against this background that UNAIDS, in partnership with the SADC Parliamentary Forum, UNFPA, UNESCO, African Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN) and Restless Development convened a Youth Indaba in October 2019 in South Africa.

“AIDS is still the main cause of death among young women in the SADC region. We need the boldness and courage of young people to walk the last mile. Young people need to know that they are fighting for leaving no one behind,” said Catherine Sozi, Director for the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa, during the indaba.

The aim of the indaba was to strengthen capacity and collaboration between young parliamentarians and youth activists to ensure that SRHR, HIV and gender equality are prioritized within national development agendas.

“It is inappropriate and unacceptable to design any strategy, policy or law without the involvement of young people. We cannot do anything that pertains to our future resources without youth involvement,” said the Vice President of SADC Parliamentary Forum (PF), Isaac Mmemo Magagula.

The programme of the Youth Indaba included several interactive sessions on innovative approaches to youth-led accountability, opportunities to share best practices and build networks and partnerships.

The last day of the meeting consisted of an intergenerational dialogue between the young participants and senior Parliamentarians and development partners, focused on placing young people at the centre of development, including supporting meaningful youth engagement and youth-led accountability.

According to SADC, people under the age of 35 are rarely found in formal political leadership positions. Therefore youth-led accountability ensures that young people are engaged and participate in decision-making that affects their lives and exercise accountability over those decisions.

“We commit to work collaboratively as youth researchers, advocates and young MPs for the achievement of set targets and commitments concerning HIV, SRHR, and gender equality for all young people in the SADC region, including being accountable to the constituencies we represent and the young people and communities we serve,” said Rahma Suleiman from AfriYAN in Tanzania, reading from a Joint Youth Commitment on youth-led accountability which was later on presented at the ICPD+25 Summit in Nairobi.  

Participants developed the outcome document referred to as the “Tshwane Declaration on strengthening youth-led accountability in SADC parliaments for delivering on commitments on SRHR, HIV and gender equality”, which was later adopted by the SADC PF’s Plenary Assembly in Namibia in December 2019. The adoption is groundbreaking in that it promotes youth-led accountability with SADC.

By adopting the resolution, the assembly resolved to undertake several actions required to improve young people’s right to health and empowerment using their legislative, oversight and representation mandate. This includes the amendment of laws and policies that limit young people’s freedom of expression, choice and access to integrated HIV and SRHR services, comprehensive sexuality education social protection and harm reduction services for young key populations. – (original story via UNAIDS http://rstesa.unaids.org/

A meeting for parliamentarians to deliberate on how to end teenage pregnancy in Kenya was convened on 27th February 2020 at Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi by National Council of Population and Development with support from UNESCO, UNFPA and SRHRA.

The meeting attended by seven members of parliament and several parliamentary clerks, government representatives, UNESCO, UNFPA, civil society and the media aimed securing political leadership in response to teenage pregnancy, which is still a major issue in the country. During the meeting, presentations were made on the status of teenage pregnancy in the country. Highlights were also given on UNESCO’s technical support towards ending teenage pregnancy in the country and the region. In his remarks on behalf of the UN agencies, the UNFPA Deputy Representative Dr. Eziz Hellenov affirmed the agencies commitments towards gender equality through ending teenage pregnancy.

The parliamentarians through the plenary session called for practical interventions that addresses the root causes of teenage pregnancy. ‘’ we need to explore how rape cases are contributing to teenage pregnancy, we should not turn our eyes blind as young girls continue to be violated by people meant to protect them’ asserted Senator Ledama of Narok County. Members of parliament also called upon parents to take up responsibilities of nurturing children. Prof Kamar, Senator Uasin Gishu County noted that there is need to provide psycho-social support for teen mothers for them to cope with their situation. She noted that this has informed the 2019 draft care and protective bill  in parliament and the draft reproductive health bill. The members of parliament also called for concerted efforts by Ministries of Health and Education since there are no shortages of policies in Kenya, what lacks is the implementation

NEW YORK, 25 Nov 2019 – 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an annual global campaign designed to mobilise action to end gender-based violence (GBV) in all its forms. The campaign runs from 25 November to 10 December. School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is defined as ‘acts or threats of sexual, physical, or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of gender norms and stereotypes and enforced by unequal power dynamics.’

Millions of children are affected by violence in and around schools every year. Girls are particularly vulnerable. SRGBV negatively impacts the ability of children to get to and from school, attendance rates, learning outcomes and can lead to higher rates of school drop-out. Identifying, responding to, and preventing SRGBV is therefore critical to advancing gender equality in education as well as the Sustainable Development Goal 4 target of ‘safe, inclusive and gender-sensitive learning environments.’ 

Developed by UNGEI through the Global Working Group to End SRGBV, our publication A Whole School Approach to prevent and respond to SRGBV: minimum standards and monitoring framework provides guidance for policy makers and practitioners in developing strategies to address school violence. The model is based on eight evidence-based standards drawn from approaches identified as promising practices for SRGBV prevention and response. Taken together, the following key elements represent a ‘whole school approach’ (WSA) to tackling SRGBV:

  1. Effective school leadership and community engagement to create safe, gender-sensitive learning environments
  2. Establishing and implementing a code of conduct
  3. Capacity building of teachers and educational staff support
  4. Empowering children on child rights, participation and gender equality
  5. Improving reporting, monitoring and accountability
  6. Incident response
  7. Strengthening safe and secure physical environments in and around schools
  8. Engaging parents

Over the course of this 16-day campaign UNGEI and partners will unpack each of these eight key elements through a digital advocacy campaign. Inspired by dialogue across digital channels and discussion fora, both in person and online, a global writeshop will be convened on Human Rights Day (10 Dec) leading to the creation of an open letter. Produced collaboratively, the letter will appeal to the countries of the world to take a number of key actions in order to make schools safe and gender-sensitive learning environments. Find out how you can take part here. 

The fight to end SRGBV must continue beyond these 16 Days. Therefore, marking a new phase of the campaign to #EndSRGBV, on 10 December UNGEI and partners will also release a series of six advocacy briefs featuring case studies on promising practice for tackling SRGBV. Each brief brings together the latest learning and evidence on how to prevent and respond to SRGBV, providing a framework for further advocacy, activism, and action against violence in schools.

Join us in learning how we can work together to address this global crisis, calling on global leaders to take action against School-Related Gender-Based Violence during this 16 Days of Activism and beyond. 

Follow UNGEI on Facebook and Twitter and join the conversation via #EndSRGBV