Empowering Young People to Solve their Problems and Drive Change

October 18, 2023


Leah Wangari Mwangi - Muchiri

Research officer


The number of young people globally is increasing. However, globally, communities are grappling with how to provide significant opportunities for young people to participate in civic, economic, and intellectual life. In most African countries, young people constitute a large and rapidly growing proportion of the population. However, these young people, including in Kenya, face various social, health, and economic challenges that disrupt their livelihoods and education. As a result, they are predisposed to poverty-related exposure to diseases, disabilities, and death. 

In response to this challenge, APHRC launched The Youth Research Academy (YRA) aimed at capacity-building the youth to find  solutions to improving Adolescent and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (ASRHR) service delivery, 

This was done through a research capacity-building program for youth between 18 to 25 years. The YRA trained twelve youth researchers (18-24 years) on the concept and purpose of research and the research process (from planning research questions to data collection, analysis, and dissemination). Following a one-week residential training, I drafted three concept notes that later developed into full proposals during a three-day hackathon.

The protocols were submitted to the APHRC internal Ethical Review Committee and later to a National Ethical and Scientific Review Board, where the study was approved. A research permit from the National Commission for Science, Technology, and Innovation in Kenya was awarded. A community entry meeting was held between the Youth Research Academy awardees and the Korogocho Community Advisory Committee (CAC) members. The meeting aimed at sensitizing them on the project scope and the intended data collection exercise for the study, “Assessing parents’ knowledge and attitude
towards uptake of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine by girls aged 9-14 years: A cross-sectional study in Korogocho, Kenya”.

Data was collected from 309 study participants, of whom 93% were female, with less than a quarter 15% having their daughters fully vaccinated against the HPV virus. The majority (85%) had heard about cervical cancer, and the majority of the vaccinated girls were drawn from those who had heard about cervical cancer. Abstinence and condoms were the main methods reported to prevent the infection of HPV. More than half of the respondents (59%) were aware that HPV vaccination was being administered to girls aged ten years. Healthcare providers (37%) were the most prevalent source of knowledge about the HPV vaccine.

The team is currently drafting a paper to publish their study findings. At the same time, they have also shared a concept note towards sensitizing the community on the importance of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine for girls aged 9-14 years.

Beyond the research activity, two of the Youth Research Academy awardees were awarded three-month internship opportunities, and because of their excellent engagement, these paid internships have now been extended.


  1. Young people do not see themselves as challenges but as intricate and innovative human beings. Harnessing their drive and creative energy through the YRA is a step towards building a critical mass of young people who can drive the research and policy agenda, focusing on the region and assuming leadership roles in civil society organizations. 
  1. Ensuring the voices of young people are present in matters directly affecting their health is critical. It is increasingly recognized that they should be research partners in designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating interventions to meet their health needs. 
  1. Capacity building and training young people to conduct ethically and scientifically sound research is also crucial to the meaningful involvement of young people as equal partners.
  1. The study’s youth-centered strategy was one of Youth Research Academy’s most unique and notable features, as it embraced the term “for the youth and by the youth.” Young researchers, youth supervisors, APHRC personnel, and consultants hailed the study’s concept as a remarkable moment in youth research. It established an essential precedent for youth participation in research processes, demonstrating that young people could undertake high-quality research projects. This was an opportunity for APHRC to reflect on how to build on this model throughout its numerous programs beyond the training.

Local youth within communities of the study were more accepting of the survey as they resonated with their counterparts. This is an opportunity for APHRC and its partners to leverage this model to learn and replicate a similar model or set up a Youth Research Hub.


  1. Value peer-to-peer youth-led research by investing in it and by providing comprehensive support to those doing it (funding, skill building, and mentorship)
  2. Make research fun using creative, interactive techniques during training and data collection.
  3. Legitimize youth research by letting young people own it and supporting them in sharing it creatively (i.e., through publishing platforms, videos, etc.
  4. Encourage and develop youth participation in research as a longer-term strategy.