Championing Change Among Adolescent and Youth in Homa Bay County

Five youth having a conversation outside
Sexual and gender-based violence is of grave concern in Homa Bay County. More than half of women ages 15–49 years in the county have experienced physical violence and almost a quarter have experienced sexual violence[1]. In many cases, this violence is being committed against youth and adolescents with cases of defilement making up 85% of all sexual assaults on a monthly basis, followed by rape at 5%[2]. Adolescent marriage and teen pregnancy also greatly impact the health and wellbeing of young people in Homa Bay with nearly a quarter of teenage girls having been pregnant[3].

Kevin Omondi is a single 24-year-old man who studied plumbing and pipefitting at a local technical college in Homa Bay County. The Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program sponsored his training. As Kevin got to know the community where he studied, he started to recognize the problems younger members of the community were facing: grappling with substance and drug abuse, engaging in early sexual activities, and experiencing assaults and rape. Kevin wanted to improve the health and well-being of young people and decided he wanted to seek solutions for these issues he heard about.

Becoming Youth Champions

In June 2022, Breakthrough ACTION Kenya trained Kevin and 39 other participants as Youth Champions, focusing on providing peer-to-peer counseling and education on adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health. During this time, Kevin learned the ways in which physical, cognitive, social, and emotional changes impact young people.

During his training, Kevin received key facilitation manuals, namely the Youth Action Kit and Tuko Pamoja. “I use these two materials to guide my work, which I was trained on by Breakthrough ACTION to reach out to different age groups in my community. I use Tuko Pamoja when I am engaging with adolescents in school and Youth Action Kit when engaging youth out of school,” Kevin reports. These manuals cover sexual and reproductive health and life skills topics, which help young people who undergo the sessions to make informed decisions regarding their health-seeking behaviors and other disease and prevention.

Reaching Youth and Adolescents

A youth champion speaks in front of a group in Kenya

Youth champion, Kevin Omondi, facilitates a session on family planning with youth at Nyalgosi Health Centre, Homa Bay County. Photo by: Alfayo Wamburi, Breakthrough ACTION

Armed with his training, Kevin was assigned to Nyalgosi Health Centre in Rachuonyo South Sub-County. As a Youth Champion, Kevin supported young people through conducting youth-focused reproductive health sessions and linking them to health services or other services, on a case-by-case basis. Kevin is now well-equipped to provide meaningful support to young people facing such challenges, and he is also better able to communicate with young people and assist them in assessing risks and identifying strategies to avoid them. A service provider occasionally accompanies Kevin to the field so they can respond to technical questions Kevin may not be able to answer. Meanwhile, Kevin refers all his clients—mostly young people—to the facility to whom the provider is linked for health services.

Seven months after being trained, Kevin has educated 814 young members of his community on sexual and reproductive health and has referred 126 young people to youth reproductive health services at Nyalgosi Health Centre. This education has empowered these young people, improving their ability to make decisions, resist peer pressure, know where to go for reproductive health services, and how to respond in case of gender-based violence.

Kevin’s work is already changing the narrative of young people seeking health services at Nyalgosi Health Centre. In his village, young people know they can reach out to Kevin when they face difficult matters related to sexual and reproductive health. Trained champions like Kevin can carry out this work in their community and beyond to continue to help youth get the services they need.

Written by: Janet Akech, Social and Behavior Change Officer, Breakthrough ACTION

[1] Kenya Demographic Health Survey, 2022

[2] Homa Bay Police Gender Desk, 2020

[3] Kenya Demographic Health Survey, 2022