Humphrey Nabimanya Founder of Reach a Hand Uganda is passionate about issues affecting young people. He believes that with proper guidance, support and knowledge, young people are able to make informed decisions and fulfill their full potential. This is his story...
My parents were HIV positive. All they did, even when fighting stigma and discrimination by disclosing their status, something that later made me an outcast in my community, was to work towards seeing an HIV-free community. At that time it was unheard of for one to publicly disclose that they are HIV positive, so for me, my parents’ boldness and tenacity was the drive I needed.
I was born in a family of 26 children and my mother died when I was only 9 months leaving my elder sister to raise me. She was so engaged in advocacy work around HIV and therefore had materials that talked about sex, body changes and all that concerns reproductive health. But what intrigued me the most was the topic of sex.
I remember approaching my sister and telling her I had had sex so many times and with so many people because I thought sex meant friendship. My sister out of concern sat down with me and asked who those people were. So I started listing the names, among which were boys, and some girls that had parents living with HIV. This shows the amount of misguided information that is out there about reproductive health and how the need to empower young people with knowledge is still critical.
The problems in my community played a big part in the genesis of Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU). My community had high rates of HIV/AIDs coupled with stigma. A case in point was how I was always told by the people in my community that I was HIV positive and as such they treated me with contempt, yet my sister continually told me otherwise. Teenage marriage was a normal thing. My mother was a victim of it and so was my sister, getting married at only sixteen years of age. I was born in abject poverty. I wasn't born in a hospital, and this causes me to fight teenage pregnancy because I want to see a society where children are safely born at health facilities and not in kitchens.
Because of these various factors, I became a school counselor in primary six, and for me, this was the beginning of my work in empowering young people with information on reproductive health. I knew then that even someone’s lifestyle, the decisions one makes can affect their life, that there was more to HIV than mother to child transmission.
During vacation, a couple of friends and I formed a community-based organization called Youth Watch, where we went to primary schools and educated children on bad touches because at the time rape was rampant. In S.1 I started doing school tours and in the holidays engaged with the church youth community. Basically, all I did was share my story and that of my sister and this got people listening. I also set up support groups during holidays for students living with HIV and had self-stigma because more parents were approaching me to help. By 2007 I had reached 148 schools across the country.
It is then that I approached NBS Television with my proposal to host a programme where knowledge on reproductive health would be shared, but unfortunately, I was told that it would be a boring program. Not defeated, I changed to an entertainment programme, my end goal being that through this I would go to more schools and hence reach more young people. That was when Youth Voice was born.
My desire to create a youth health empowered movement made me ask myself, “what is being done for young people?” a question on which Reach a Hand Uganda was founded.
When I wake up I am already inspired. I look to everyone as an inspiration because I know there's always something I can learn, starting with my employees because they keep doing things that amaze me. Knowing who I am keeps me humble, and money cannot change that.
I have made mistakes, I make mistakes often but I seek to listen when being guided, I respect the art of mentorship. Right now I can say I am on the journey to living my dream, and for me, living my dream means making a choice when I can afford it.
To the young person reading this, be humble, stay humble. Celebrate your friends’ successes even though you started at the same point, don't blame people for your misfortune. Learn from mistakes, yours and those of other people. Stay committed to your goals, it's a journey. Don't look to compete but to compliment.