Nairobi Kenya, 30th September 2021, UNESCO launched a health and wellbeing project for young people in Kenyan universities and tertiary institutions. Dubbed, Our Lives, Our Rights, Our Future (03 Plus), the program will be piloted by the University of Nairobi and Mount Kenya University.
The O3 Plus project will also target young people in higher and tertiary education institutions in Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to realize positive health, education, and gender equality outcomes through sustained reductions in new HIV infections, unintended pregnancy, and gender-based violence. The 03 Plus project in Kenya will benefit 100,000 students.
Speaking during the colorful launch at the University of Nairobi, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa expressed his appreciation and gratitude to the Swedish International Development Agency which has been a key partner, and for their generous financial support which has enabled the implementation of the 03 Plus project in Eastern and Southern Africa.
He further thanked the University of Nairobi and Mount Kenya University in piloting the project and being part of the planning team.
“… This is a major milestone in addressing a range of health and wellbeing issues that young people face in universities and higher and tertiary education institutions (HTEI). Some of these issues include gender-based violence, HIV, mental health, and access to information on sexual and reproductive health and services.”
He further stated “The 03 Plus project is part of a larger program that targets young students to support them with knowledge and services to enable them make informed choices. UNESCO is known for its projects in education; quality education is not only a curriculum but a process that students and teachers must take a part in; if students struggle with issues, then they cannot concentrate on their education therefore, no matter the quality of the education, it will be a waste”.
The Mount Kenya University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Deogratius Jaganyi noted that the project is important because there are a lot of issues to do with mental health, this project will highlight and give a platform to spread the word on not sitting alone but to seek support.
“Students go through a lot; it is an issue of empowering students to enable them maneuver through University. This project is so important to the youth of Kenya. It will not only benefit the Thika Campus but the entire 12 Mount Kenya University campuses.” The Vice Chancellor concluded.
Ms. Annika Otterstedt, Head of Kenya Development Cooperation Section, Embassy of Sweden said that the Swedish feminist policy is one reason for them to engage in young people’s lives when it comes to rights and responsibility. “Young people need to know that they have responsibilities. We want to be part of this to ensure that the young population understands that to change the world they need to engage in several ways. We know that they face challenges, and these challenges are what we want to address. Sweden provides technical and financial support to UNESCO to implement this project.”
Prof. Stephen Kiama, Vice-chancellor, University of Nairobi said that the program will help students reach their full potential; “We need young people to take full charge of their lives, freedom in the campus is meant to cultivate critical thinking and innovativeness at large. Issues related to sexual reproductive health rights, drug abuse, mental problems among others can affect the academic lives of students and therefore early intervention is critical,” he stated.
Ms. Mumina Bonaya, Chief Administrative Secretary from the Kenya Ministry of Education, who represented Prof. George Magoha, Cabinet Secretary referred to how youths form a foundation of every state, noting that youths face a number of challenges which this project targets.
The 03 Plus project partners then signed an MOU that will be working under the following pillars: Institutionalized HTEI commitment to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) through policies and curriculum; Greater uptake by students of improved quality SRHR services and information; Safer, more inclusive, and more supportive campus environments for all students; and increased evidence base for CSE/SRHR needs and effective approaches within HTEIs.