Children Psychosocial Forum – Arusha, Tanzania

Rachel Njau (first from the left) and Justine Sylivester (second from the right side) in a group photo during psychosocial forum

Three adolescents from AGPAHI supported regions joined other children and adolescents from Eastern and Southern African countries to participate in the  Psychosocial Forum that took place at Lush garden, Arusha.

The two days children forum (2nd – 3rd September 2017) preceded the main conference in which it included children and adolescents from 13 countries of the Eastern and Southern Africa. Frank Christopher, Rachel Njau and Justine Sylvester are three adolescents who participated in the forum. These adolescents come from Nasa Health Centre(Simiyu region), Shinyanga Referral Hospital and Kambarage Health Centre in Shinyanga region. They belong to AGPAHI initiated psychosocial clubs, commonly known as "Ariel clubs". The forum was organized by Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI).

 

The main objectives of the forum are as follows:

  • Allowing children from different background and experiences, networks and platforms to share experience, to network and get platform lessons and ways of addressing challenges they face to each other,
  • Working with children and be able to package the information and lessons in a way that can be adapted for implementation and advocacy,
  • Empowering children and youth to be able to share the resolutions from the forum for implementation and advocacy in their respective clubs.

 

The children forum was officiated by Dr. Sihaba Nkinga, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDEC). In her speech, Dr Nkinga highlighted that “lack of accountability from parents and guardians is the main cause of children psychosocial challenges”. Dr. Nkinga also urged the children to always speak out and let their voices be heard.

Dr. Sihaba Nkinga(left side), Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDEC) officiating the forum.

 

Amongst the invited guests was Jake Glaser, the son of the late Elizabeth Glaser who shared his story and inspired children and adolescents living with HIV not to give up on their dreams.

Jake Glaser sharing his story at the forum

Jake also had a one to one session with children (Q &A). Three main questions that were raised included:

  1. Question: How did you  take it when you found out that you are HIV positive?

Answer: Disclosure – I talk about my story to people, knowing myself and accepting the fact.

 

  1. Question: How you ensure that your girlfriend does not get HIV?

Answer: By making right choices and decisions. I also ensure that I take my medication correctly.

 

  1. Question: How do you help others to learn about HIV?

Answer: Using social media to educate and create awareness to people.

Jake Glaser on one to one session answering random questions from the youths during the forum

Jake Glaser(fourth from left) together with Justine Sylvester (second from left) and Frank Christopher (third from left )talking with the youth at the forum.

Moreover, children and adolescents from each country were given an opportunity to present the issues that affects the equity and equality for all girls, boys and youths participatory approach in an interview. The main issues that were presented during countries interviews were: Education, stigma and discrimination for People living with HIV, child protection, child marriage and child rights.

 

Finally, children and adolescents had a brief session about the use of social media to advocate for their rights and other psychosocial issues. The forum ended by applauding REPSSI (the Organizers of the forum) for convening the forum which has brought so much joy to the children and had opportunity to share their experience and let their voices be heard. The organizers promised the children that their views and opinions will be shared during the main conference and will be considered for further action.

 

By Gloria Macha

 

 

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