It was emotional days for World Vision and Young Heroes as they bade farewell to their Community Youth Facilitators, from Nkwene, zombodze, Matsanjeni, Ngudzeni, Sandleni, Hhukwini and Nkhaba Inkhundla. The closeout meetings, held at Tums Waterworld and Hlane Nature reserve respectivey, not only served as a farewell for outgoing facilitators but it aimed to review the successes, challenges and sustainability plan for the project within the constituencies and moving forward. We appreciate their hard work and dedication towards the project and their communities, and proud to call them our young future leaders.
World Vision – Tums WaterWorld
Young Heroes - Hlane Nature Reserve
The Halt Project was launched in October 2018. The aim: Halt the spread of HIV and reverse its impact on Swazi society by targeting a crucial population – youth aged 15–24 who are out of school or in college.
Thanks to a grant from the UN Global Fund Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, coming through Eswatini’s Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO), the initiative covers a broad reach and includes focused support services.
The Halt Project has implemented interventions targeting adolescent girls and young women across 20 Tinkhundla in Eswatini. Implemented by World Vision and Young Heroes, these interventions are aimed at building self-efficacy for negotiation and condom use, self-esteem, risk perception and reduction, gender relations, GBV prevention, leadership and enhanced resilience.
Some of the interventions include youth health days and events; ongoing groups using the Stepping Stones curriculum; and comprehensive HIV treatment, care and support for adolescents and young adults living with HIV from target communities.
As young women who are out of school are at the highest risk for HIV, a special focus on them will include subsidies for tuition and savings groups, where they learn financial management and micro-entrepreneurship.
The AGYW activation was held at Mahlangatja iNkundla on the 13 September 2019. Welcoming remarks were given by iNkhundla Bucopho, Mr Mndzebele, who expressed his gratitude to World Vision and CANGO for having chosen the Mahlangatja iNkhundla in providing relevant services to its youth. He encouraged all young people who were part of the program to change their old habits and old ways and be a positive influence to other young people and the community at large.
On behalf of World Vision Eswatini, Bongekile Nxumalo, appreciated Mahlagatjas AGYW for attending the event and announced that this was a day to celebrate their enrollment and completion of the Stepping Stones program. The Stepping Stones program was made up of sessions that equipped young people to make informed decisions about their lives. She encouraged AGYW to share the information that they had received from Stepping Stones; put what they had learnt into practice and be a positive change in the community. She also mentioned that the project will be ongoing for the next two years and so urged all AGYW who were a part of Stepping Stones to encourage other young people to take part in the program.
CANGOs social media officer also thanked all partners for making the event successful and urged AGYW to take part in the social media program "IGNITE" through engaging on the various social media platforms and pages under the IGNITE program.
Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision- ICAP
Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision services were provided during the activation. Male circumcision was explained as the surgical removal of the foreskin, which is the retractable fold of tissue that covers the head of the penis. Medical male circumcision is said to reduce the risk of female-to-male sexual transmission of HIV by approximately 60%. This is because the inner part of the foreskin is highly susceptible to HIV infections. VMMC is highly recommended as an additional strategy for HIV prevention, particularly amongst Adolescent Boys and Young Men as it provides life-long partial protection against HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections. However, it should always be used in conjunction with other methods of prevention, such as female and male condoms. VMMC also benefits women over time by decreasing the number of HIV infected men in the population, thereby reducing the probability that women encounter HIV infected sexual partners. Furthermore, VMMC reduces the risk of acquiring several Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer among women.
Overview of SODV Act- Royal Eswatini Police
The much talked about Sexual Offences & Domestic Violence (SODV) Bill was also a topic of the day during the activation. A representative of the Royal Eswatini Police was invited to shed information on this Bill. The SODV Bill has been in place since 2009 but it recently received Royal Assent from His Majesty King Mswati III in July 2018. It has now been passed into law known as The Sexual Offences & Domestic Violent Act. The SODV Act protects the innocent whilst punishing the perpetrators sufficiently, it also curbs both sexual and domestic violence within our society. It seeks to restore peace in different family settings taking into account cohabiting spouses. It makes the courts more accessible for victims of domestic violence. It protects both male and female victims of rape and the indecent treatment of children including any sexual behaviour towards children. Such acts can have a lasting negative effect on the mind of a child. In the SODV Bill, no one should be forced to engage in certain acts such as fondling, masturbation or other sexually suggestive acts against their will. The Bill also prevents unsolicited demands or request for sexual favours, or any form of remark which has sexual connotation. It also criminalizes marital rape and other domestic violence offences; makes provision for Specialised Domestic Violence Courts; creates mechanisms and avenues for reporting of offences; and requires medical examination and treatment of victims.
What some Stepping Stones participants had to say..
The AGYW activation was held at Nkhaba iNkundla on the 23 August 2019. Welcoming remarks were given by the iNkhundla secretary who praised the work which Young Heroes was bringing to the community and the good working relationship which they shared over the year. She encouraged all young people that they should take what they learnt from Young Heroes and put it into practice as they were counting on them to be tomorrow’s future leaders.
Young Heroes (programs & project officer) also shared their gratitude towards Nkhaba’s AGYW for attending the sessions. They also congratulated those who would be awarded certificates of completion and also stressing that the event went beyond the certification, as it was also a chance for others to learn about the program, learn about health information and services available and also be encouraged to join Stepping Stones.
Stepping Stones Experience
Nonduduzo Simelane (19), shared how she learnt about early pregnancy and different contraception methods to prevent young people from having unwanted pregnancies. She also learnt about PrEP and PEP. She described PrEP as a drug taken 28 days before sex to prevent HIV infection, whilst PREP could be taken for HIV prevention after having unprotected sex.
Nkhaba Clinic nurse also praised Young Heroes by saying that there has been a significant increase of young people seeking health services especially around Sexual Reproductive Health. She mentioned that this was a good thing as it was no secret that young people are engaging in sex and therefore they had a right to access SRH services. However, she appealed to young people to engage in safe sex by remaining consistent in using condoms as the rate of HIV infections amongst young people was still very alarming. Health services available on the day included HIV testing services provided by AHF as well as condom distribution by Young Heroes.
The Swaziland Youth Enterprise Revolving Fund (YERF) was also invited to share with graduates about youth opportunities available for them within the fund. The youth fund aims to assist young people to develop themselves economically, by providing capital to young people seeking to start their own businesses. It has a rigorous application procedure, and funds individuals with up to E50 000 with no need for collateral. However, what was delaying most young people from receiving the fund is not thinking out of the box in terms of business ideas. Nkhaba youth were encouraged to explore unique business opportunities to stand a better chance at funding. Application forms were left at the iNkhundla for those who wished to apply.
There was a stand-up comedy by the much loved Gedlembane who kept the audience laughing their lungs out as he rendered jokes around HIV prevention. A dance group also entertained the audience with music and dance.
The Honourable member of parliament for the Nkhaba constituency presented certificates to those who had completed the sessions. He encouraged young people not to define having fun by engaging in reckless behavior, indulging in alcohol and unprotected sex but rather work on making a better future for themselves through the various health and economic resources that were presented.
What some graduates had to say about Stepping Stones.
Takangwane Dlamini (22)
From the Nkhaba area
“Stepping Stones taught young people how to carry themselves in a good manner and how to live their lives positively free from HIV. It also taught us how to be clean and keep good hygiene. S.S taught the value of saving money to help you in the uncertain future. I would recommend Stepping Stones to other young people as it received free of charge and is beneficial to the life of any young person.”
Gcebile Dlamini (24)
From Nkomati, Lugaganeni
“Through S.S I now know how HIV is transmitted amongst people. I also know how to protect yourself from HIV infection and others from getting infected if you are living with the virus. Also learnt about the different types of Sexual Transmitted Infections and how having unprotected sex increases your chances of being infected with STIs. I would encourage all young people to join Stepping Stones as they provide us with a great amount of information including knowing your HIV status and knowing where to reach for help.”
IGNITE is a social media program that targets adolescents and young people through various social media networks including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our initiative is to create platforms where the youth is empowered to access HIV prevention information and services, and make informed decisions about their lives. IGNITE is part of the Global Fund project, granted through CANGO ,which aims to halt the spread of HIV and reverse its impact on the Swazi society by targeting youth aged 15–24 years who are out of school or in college.