University of Nairobi under the framework of UNESCO: Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future Plus (O3 PLUS) Project trained 40 champions to support the implementation of O3 PLUS activities in its 10 campuses. The Project aims to ensure that young people in higher and tertiary education institutions in the Eastern and Southern Africa realize positive health, education, and gender equality outcomes through sustained reductions in new HIV infections, unintended pregnancy, and gender-based violence.
Forty students were successfully selected following a vigorous process by Office of the Dean of Students in partnership with UNESCO. The selected student champions were taken through a two-day training on HIV, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, mental health and wellbeing as well as interpersonal and meaningful peer to peer engagement and communication.
“From the training, I feel more empowered to support my peers. I have learned that social gender constructs are only a problem when they limit access to resources and propagate negative norms in the Kenyan society lead to power imbalance, violence, and inequality. I am more aware that the more we don’t talk about our feelings, the more they cause mental tension, impeding our mental health and wellbeing.”
Aysha Ali- UoN Mombasa Campus (Faculty Arts and Social Sciences)
“Growing up in a household where domestic violence was the norm was tough for me. It led me to question why the violence was occurring in my home, leading to quite poor performance during my first undergraduate studies. With the support of my fellow students, who encouraged me to stay strong, I was motivated to begin a student counselling club at the Kisumu campus, that allowed me to create a safe space for my peers to open up and express themselves. I am optimistic O3 PLUS will continue to foster this positive impact within my campus, as I look forward to being a positive example and advocate for my siblings and comrades.”
Jone Brooks Arunga Okwaro- Kisumu Campus (Faculty of Business and Faculty of Law)
“The urge to reverse the alarming mental health unease among my fellow learners, caused by avoidable circumstances, is my biggest motivation to engage as an O3 PLUS champion. We continue to advocate for meaningful student engagement, and the engagement of other key stakeholders, such as lecturers, in designing solutions to the challenges faced by students within our campuses. The power of strategic communication as a key driver of change cannot be understated, and I look forward to a day where the O3 PLUS interventions will be fully operationalized within the University of Nairobi, as a key student led and owned engagement.”
Haya Dennis- UoN Parklands Campus (Faculty of Law)
The student champions expressed their optimism to handle personal challenges, as well as support their peers, in addressing the issues they face that impact negatively on their health and wellbeing. The commitments made by the students, through the design of a student activity workplan was reiterated by the assistant deans of students present at the training, and the results of this engagement will come to fruition at the end of the project implementation cycle. The training took place on 25 and 26 October 2022 in Nairobi.