This Participatory Action Research (PAR) sought to understand factors that motivate or demotivate adolescents to engage in or abstain from HIV preventive behaviors, testing and treatment revealing of HIV status to their partners and or parents/guardians. We trained 26 adolescent community leaders on HIV/AIDS (two from each of the 13 villages that make up Ngoketunjia Division, with one being a nurse working at the local village clinic) to act as change agents and information contacts providing HIV/AIDS prevention education, testing, care, treatment and anti-stigma behaviors to their peers in villages. These adolescent community leaders were to further engage into a participatory action research to understand and document the factors that motivate or demotivate adolescents to engage in or abstain from HIV preventive behavior, testing and treatment, revealing of HIV status to their partners and or parents/guardians. The outcome of this participatory action research was to be a policy brief addressed to relevant policy makers in the country.
Amidst the escalating conflict (increased insecurity) in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, our very committed and passionate adolescent peer educators continue with their group facilitation activities going as far as holding sessions in their homes, in churches, with people hiding in bushes among others. From this commitment, we have learned that engaging adolescents is very vital in combating the spread of HIV/AIDs in our communities.
Adolescents after group discussions in some villages. Peer educator in (a blue T-shirt) with the RuWCED logo on it (picture on the left). Peer educator holding pads -male in blue (picture on the right)
Adolescent peer educators, coordinator of the Ngoketunjia Divisional HIV/AIDS treatment center, Head of government Regional Technical Group on HIV/AIDS, Heads of HIV/AIDS treatment centers, Representative of the Regional delegate of Secondary education, school counsellors and teachers, Church youth leaders, nurses and others after the project findings dissemination and advocacy meeting.
Key quotes that marked our learning on the relationship between soft power and unsafe sex
Prove to me that you love me
Prove to me that you are seeing only me
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 to be my own in papers [condoms]-this whole thing is about trusting one another, right?
You are keeping it [her female sex organ] 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 not use 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?
I[an inter-generational predator] will teach you the gentle way-those young boys are rough and all they offer is rough sex.
I [an inter-generational predator] will teach you very well so that when you marry and handle your husband, he will always beg for it.
Let me [an inter-generational predator] tell you, no man likes a naïve or inexperienced girl.
The statements in the quote above are a selection from different narrations by our female participants demonstrating some soft power statements used by boys/elderly men to urge adolescent girls to engage into unsafe sexual acts. Most of the girls acknowledged that- such statements played a role in influencing them on giving in. This made us to begin combining our project activities with extensive self-esteem, rights assertion and how to identify an abusive relationship education programs for young adolescent girls. Learning these soft power strategies, 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!