Rural libraries contribute to teenagers’ health

Uganda Community Libraries Association


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Teenagers using laptops to research the internet for health information in their library.
Teenagers research the internet for health information in CFYDDI library.

Community need

Ugandan teenagers need information about sexual and nutritional health. Although the incidence of HIV/AIDS has reduced in Uganda, the disease continues to be a threat. Many girls have their schooling interrupted by unwanted pregnancies, or problems handling menstruation. Information about nutrition is also scarce, and in its Nutrition Action Plan (2011), the Ugandan Government highlighted the importance of educating youth about nutrition.

The innovative project

UgCLA seeks to overcome these challenges with their Health, Reading and Computer Training Camps project for teenagers. Through the camps, UgCLA aims to increase knowledge about health and nutrition, and its practical application in personal hygiene, diet and agriculture, in five rural communities.

The project, which is supported by a small grant (up to US$20,000) from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP), works through five rural community libraries: Access Knowledge Africa library in Mukono District; CFYDDI (Centre for Youth Driven Development Initiatives) in Wakiso District; Busolwe Public Library in Butaleja District; Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre in Jinja District, and ORDISEF (Organisation for the Diffusion of Information on Society, Economy, and Finance) in Kasese District.

To provide the service, libraries improved their infrastructure, acquiring five laptop computers and five routers, a selection of indoor and outdoor games, health related posters and books. Each community library selected three people - a librarian, a teacher and a health worker - to organize and facilitate a Health, Reading and Computer Training Camp. 

Working with UgCLA, the 15 camp facilitators developed a programme of camp activities for teenagers, including education and discussion on health and nutrition; training in computer skills and internet search, and reading and critically assessing health information found in books and online. At mealtimes, discussion focused on healthy nutrition, and the camps also encouraged play, with time for indoor and outdoor games. 

Achievements and impact

In just one year, UgCLA and the five community libraries – 

  • Trained 15 camp facilitators, building their computer and internet skills, their camp management skills and confidence in working with teenagers, and especially in addressing sensitive adolescent sexual health issues;
  • Resourced the facilitators, ensuring each library had sufficient books, educational games and other learning materials for the teenagers. The library's partner organization, the social enterprise AFRIpads, provided re-usable sanitary towels to distribute to girls attending the camps;
  • Organized five successful week-long camps, attracting 103 teenagers who later organized themselves into Youth Leadership Groups;
  • Disseminated their experience at the national conference of UgCLA, sharing knowledge with over 30 more libraries, who are keen to replicate the camps.

The Youth Leadership Groups attracted over 300 young people from 17 schools. The groups now meet regularly at their libraries, to discuss health issues, read and research the internet. Group members are spreading health information in their schools and communities, inspiring two communities to start vegetable gardens and another to start a fishpond.

The project has strengthened partnerships between community libraries, clinics and hospitals, and schools in the five communities, and enhanced the reputation of the five libraries as creators of non-formal educational opportunities for youth in their communities.

The response to the health camps has been overwhelmingly positive, and UgCLA is seeking funding to replicate the service in libraries serving other rural communities.

EIFL-PLIP project timeline

May 2014 - June 2015

About Uganda Community Libraries Association

Uganda Community Libraries Association (UgCLA) is a networking organization for community libraries in Uganda. The association’s mission is to complement the Ugandan education system by promoting literacy through the growth of community libraries. It currently organizes more than 100 libraries in rural and urban areas.

Additional resources

Read a two-page case study about UgCLA's Health, Reading and Computer Training Camps.

More libraries contributing to community health

Read about more innovative public library services that contribute to community health. PLIP-HEALTH

The activity that I liked most was computer, but I also liked the way we interacted and the way the facilitators answer our questions.
Camp participant, Busolwe Community Library