Ahmed Yusuf, 27, is a family planning champion from Meru County and the assistant director of the Youth and Women Advocacy Network (YWAN).

How did the idea for the Youth and Women Advocacy Network come about?

I was inspired to start the Youth and Women Advocacy Network (YWAN) to create opportunities for different people.

My elder sister became pregnant at a young age. Since my mother knew nothing about it, my sister had to leave home to go and get married. This is what motivated me to become a family planning champion.

We started the organisation with the skills and training we acquired from DSW Kenya. We registered our organisation two years ago, and since then we have conducted events and activities. I am an advocate for young people and women when it comes to health and empowerment. Being raised in the slums, I have seen young people getting pregnant before they are ready and how this has been a big challenge for them. That is what made me stand for family planning to help to eradicate these issues.

What sort of family planning methods are used in your community?

The primary method of family planning in this county is through the use of contraceptives such as condoms. Condoms are used by approximately 40% of the young people in Meru County. We should use modern ways of family planning and we should also build awareness of the many contraception options.

A challenge young people encounter now is a lack of information about their sexual lives. This causes stigmatization. There is also peer pressure among young people.

What is it like to be a youth champion?

I feel proud of being a youth champion, how I stand for the youth and allow them to air their grievances. I also share to others what I have learnt from them.

Ahmed Yusuf, 27, is the assistant director of the Youth and Women Advocacy Network in Meru County, Kenya.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your community?

COVID-19 caused me to lapse into a depression, since everything is closed for us and I can’t be with my friends and share ideas. It has also affected SRHR because people are at home and they are all sexually active. It has been challenging to share information since there is a lack of awareness in young people.

The pandemic has also made people start doing things in different ways.

What worries you?

What worries me a lot about COVID-19 is that our economy has been dragged back. I do help young people daily by counselling them, and this makes me feel very proud. I also share ideas with people, which has helped them move on in life. I have also referred people to different organisations where they can find help.

Photos and interview conducted by Brian Otieno for DSW.