Pounika Theoneste is a 21-year old university student studying Law. He is also a volunteer with the Youth Action Movement (YAM) member in IPPF’s Member Association in the Central African Republic -Association Centrafricaine pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ACABEF).
We caught up with him at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) taking place in Kigali, Rwanda (2 - 7 December 2019). He spoke to Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama about his experiences as a young volunteer with ACABEF's YAM program.
"I decided to become a YAM member two years ago. My interest in doing so arose from the need to increase my knowledge about sexuality issues. While growing up, I didn’t receive much information from my parents about issues of sex and reproductive health, so when I heard about ACABEF’s youth program, I decided to join it so that I could learn more,” he says.
Since joining in 2017, Pounika has been trained as a peer youth educator, and has been empowered to educate fellow youth. He is a peer educator with the JeuneS3 project, which aims to deliver Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services to young people in vulnerable contexts, more so women and young girls.
His participation in the JeuneS3 project has also seen Pounika receive training in radio journalism and radio production. Each week, he and his fellow youth advocates produce a show targeting young people with SRHR information. This includes information about health centers where they can get youth-friendly services. The shows are produced by the youth, for the youth.
Pounika and his team also produce radio broadcasts for ‘Listening Clubs. This involves going to the community and mobilizing young people to come together to listen to the shows produced by Pounika and the team.
“During the ‘Listening Club’ outreaches, we are always accompanied by a health service provider. After listening to the episodes, the youth ask many questions, which our team competently answers,” he says.
Pounika believes his volunteer activities with ACABEF are helping him even as he pursues his career goals.
“I hope to become a reproductive health rights advocate in the future, and the opportunities that I have gotten by being a YAM member are helping me work towards my goal. This exposure has broadened my understanding of the challenges that young people face regarding their sexual and reproductive health, the gaps that exist, and the solutions that can bring change.
My work with YAM is also helping me gather insights and perspectives into how the development, improvement and implementation of policies that affect young people and their reproductive health are instrumental in this,” he concludes.
Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama is the Governance and Compliance Officer, IPPF Africa Region.