Engaging adolescents is very vital in combating the spread of HIV/AIDs in our communities
RuWCED embarks on a Division wide HIV/AIDS prevention, care, nutrition and anti-stigma education program aimed at reaching 50,000 youths in the 13 villages of Ngoketunjia Division of the North West Region of Cameroon. 39 peer educators trained from the 13 villages, educational and support outreaches on-going, free and voluntary mass screening on-going at our hubs in the different villages.
Do you know how soft power is manifested especially among adolescent girls who are struggling to affirm their self-esteem? In a study with over 1600 adolescents for a period of two years, we learned from 672 of the 1080 female adolescents who participated that at one point or another in their respective relationships, they were told things like, boys, and often-elderly men throw out statements like;
• Prove to me that you love me.
• Prove to me that you are seeing only me and not other men.
• Prove to me that you trust me too by giving it [sexual intercourse] to me without preconditions and asking me to wear socks[condoms].
• How can I eat food that I consider mine in papers [condoms]-this whole thing is about trusting one another, right?
• You are keeping it [her genitals] for who? Is there a meter [like that for electricity or water] there? If you do not use it now and it happens that, you die, termites will enjoy it- and you do enjoy it- by going with plastics?
• Only those with multiple sexual partners carry condoms. If you are insisting, it means you know your movements and there are many other girls out there who will give it to me without any conditions.
• That is how you lose your chances of getting a good husband in the future. Do you know my plans for you?
In adolescent-led peer engagements within the context of a Participatory Action Research for Strengthening Adolescent-led engagement in HIV/AIDS prevention education, testing, treatment and anti-stigma behaviors in the Northwest Region of Cameroon, we learned from working with 1600 (with 400 of them being IDPs) adolescents who participated in our monthly adolescent-led group discussions for a period of two years that 30% do not discuss sex with any person at all. They preferred to keep it discrete so that nobody ever gets to know that they are already sexually active-not even their friends-because to use their words, once you tell a friend, you have told the world and somehow, one day, it may get to your parents or your future husband. However, 70% of the 1600 adolescents did say that they discuss sex with their peers. On finding out about the topics that prompted them to discuss their sexuality, we gathered from the female participants that, due to the ongoing socio-political crises, more female young girls have experienced sexual violence especially rape and bullying and this makes them turn to their friends for help and or advice. As for the male participants, they tended to discuss about things like, what to do if a girl says she is pregnant for them or trivialities like how the body shape of a girl determines how she responds during sexual intercourse.
Now what is RuWCED doing to challenge the soft power discussed above and the inter-linkages between VAWG and vulnerability to HIV?
In all our youth and adolescent related HIV activities, we complement sensitization, VCT, anti-stigma education with robust trainings on building self-esteem, rights assertion, sex and power as well as how to identify an abusive relationship. Learning the soft power strategies used by boys/men, RuWCED also worked with some of our youth educators from different religious backgrounds to use music in challenging intergenerational lies told by old men to adolescents. If you are a Christian youth leader trying to challenge these lies, click here for the Christian piece. Otherwise, take a listen to this piece on HIV by one of our young leaders!
It is also important to mention that the ongoing socio-political crises has caused some stores to be closed such that access to condoms (for the few who want to use it is becoming very scarce). As RuWCED, we have distributed tens of thousands of condoms during community meetings, but we recognize that this is still not enough to ensure constant availability of safe condoms for those who wish to use it as a preventive measure.
RuWCED has also worked with women living with HIV/AIDS to create support group whom we have trained on income generating activities and provided start-up capital and technical support to ensure sustainable livelihoods and nutritious food. In some cases, we provide cash grants to support female household heads living with HIV/AIDS.
Sensitization campaign Students cued up for HIV testing
Our team is determined to make the zero new infection target a reality. Our strategy is; learn how to prevent HIV/AIDS, care for and treat infected friends/relatives without stigmatizing them, spread the message to your peers and get tested to know your own status. If it happens, please know that being HIV+ is not a dead sentence.
Peer Educators trained by the RuWCED' Team
Taking HIV/AIDS prevention and care to everyone in our community
Bike riders trained at RuWCED distributing condoms and educating the community on HIV/AIDS
A big thank you to our wonderful project staff and peer educators! Together we can make a difference in our communities.