Purity Kanana, 23, is a youth leader in Youth and Women Advocacy Network (YWAN), a youth organisation located in Meru County, Kenya. She is the latest Meru-based youth champion to speak to us about how COVID-19 has affected her community.

How do you see family planning?

We live in a sexually active generation. Family planning is important for young people, so we can make the right choices.

Why is youth leadership necessary in your community?

The primary purpose of youth leadership in our community is to increase awareness of youth-friendly services. We also do outreach, lately through social media, on how youths can access these services. We also advise them on taking contraceptives and not to view contraception unfavourably. But there is also a lot of misinformation on social media that can give young people the wrong idea.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted SRHR?

The pandemic has made things open up and many cases of sexual abuse have come out. This is because people are closed in together. This has created significant need for the use of contraceptives. What worries me a lot is that people are not being accountable in their sexual affairs, which can be a problem as young people often turn to sex as a way of handling things.

Teenage pregnancies have increased. This is because the youth are idle. Most feel that their parents are threatening them at home, and the only way out is to go somewhere else to get comfort. This behaviour creates young mothers and hence also leads to poverty, and most of the youths don’t go back to school. Parents have not taken the responsibility of empowering their children; instead, young people seem like a threat to them, but it is their responsibility to talk to the next generation.

The pandemic has impacted SRHR by the increase in teenage pregnancies. People are also unable to access necessary SRHR services.

Purity Kanana is a member of the Youth and Women Advocacy Network in Meru County, Kenya.

What is it like to be a youth champion?

Being trained as a youth champion, I feel empowered because I impact the lives of other people. That makes me feel great.

I once encountered a girl while I was giving a talk. She was so motivated by me, and she said she admired me; this made me feel proud of being a youth champion making a difference in the lives of other people.

Photos and interview conducted by Brian Otieno for DSW.