One of the principles that IPPFAR stands for and champions across the region, is the empowerment of adolescent girls and young women. This it does by implementing, through Member Associations, different programs and projects that are focused on this population.
One such initiative is the ‘3E Project’, currently being implemented in the three countries of Malawi, Kenya and Uganda. In these countries, girls and young women aged between 10 – 25 years and who are particularly vulnerable to HIV, as well as those living positively with HIV are empowered to voice their needs and concerns through mentoring activities and through social media. The trained youth advocates play a key role in mobilizing other young women by building their advocacy skills on HIV and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). This they do through community outreaches, conducting educative sessions in schools, in their neighborhoods, as well as sending out messages on popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.
“When women hold key decision-making positions, then they are able to push for the agenda of all women across the country, and advocate for their rights. Since 2015, the 3E project has been on a journey to nurture the leadership skills of adolescent girls and young women, especially in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR),” says Ms. Nathalie Nkoume –IPPFAR’S Gender, Sexual Rights and Advocacy Advisor, who is coordinating the 3E project.
To date, the project has trained over 75 young passionate and vibrant girls who continue to raise awareness on different aspects of SRHR among their peers, their parents and the school community (including teachers). These passionate young girls – Africa’s growing leaders, have spearheaded different initiatives in their own communities that are focused on empowering fellow young women and raising their status in society.
“We go to schools, colleges and talk to girls in the neighborhood about sexual reproductive health and through this, many girls have come back to us and told us that they have been able to make informed choices about their sexuality because of the information we shared with them,” says Bridget Ndagire from Uganda.
19 year-old Caroline Mulenga from Malawi says that she has been able to refer hundreds of young girls for reproductive health services.
“Through the 3E project, I have got to learn of facilities that offer youth-friendly services in my area, and I refer young girls there. Previously, they were reluctant to access SRHR information and services at health centers because they were not as accommodating of their needs. But I have been able to let them know that nowadays, many health providers have been trained on how to effectively handle the sexual reproductive health needs of young people, and I have seen them taking up services,” she says.
Bridget, Caroline and other young advocates trained by the 3E project are now recognized as sources of quality SRHR information in their communities, and continue to raise their voices in different platforms they are invited to –including at the national and regional levels where they raise thier voices and all for the prioritization of the reproductive health needs of young African women.
The project has also had an effect on the girls at a personal level.
"Before the project, I was not able to stand up and speak before people. I was afraid and shy. But not anymore. I am happy to say that my engagement with the 3E project has made me more confident, and today I can address a huge gathering of people in my community, where I share with them information on among others: sexual and reproductive health,” says Jacinta Auma from Siaya County in Kenya.
The 3E Project, implemented through the technical assistance of IPPF Africa Region and with financial support from UN Women, has indeed transformed the lives of adolescents and young women in the three countries.
Story by Maryanne W. Waweru, IPPF Africa Region.