Empowered for Change

A young woman shows a young man a leaflet on SRHR. © Frontline AIDS/Steven Chikosi/2020 Empowered for Change runs a mentoring programme to empower young women to become HIV advocates.

Empowered for Change worked to reduce HIV among adolescent girls and young women in Kenya and Uganda.

Why Empowered for Change was needed

HIV infections are at crisis levels among adolescent girls and young women. Girls aged 15–19 account for 80% of HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. According to WHO, HIV is the biggest cause of death for adolescents in the region.

Underpinning these statistics are harmful gender and social norms which sanction gender-based violence and deny young women and girls the right to make decisions about their own sexual lives, let alone to participate in political decisions that affect them.

In addition, a well-resourced opposition to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is growing in East and Southern Africa. Developing a new generation of advocates will be key to countering this movement.

Empowered for Change (E4C) worked with adolescent girls and young women to ensure they could claim a seat at the table, and were able to become successful advocates and demand change.

What Empowered for Change did

The overall goal was to see decision-makers in Kenya and Uganda meaningfully engage with adolescent girls most affected by HIV on issues concerning their access to HIV, SRHR and gender-based violence services and information, and actively address their concerns in all relevant decisions, laws and policies.

The programme challenged the key policy barriers that restrict access to HIV prevention for young people, and demanded reforms which could finally secure a reduction of HIV incidence in this population.

Mentoring programme

We piloted an intensive training and mentoring program for 27 young women most affected by HIV, transforming them into advocates who can secure action on the drivers of HIV and the barriers to reducing incidence. This advocacy training supported them to advocate on key issues including access to HIV services, impunity for gender-based violence and CSE.

Participants were paid a salary, and alongside critical advocacy skills, were empowered to counter harmful conservative rhetoric blocking progress on issues like CSE and GBV. The programme enabled them to challenge social norms that exclude young women from decision-making, and to demand that their needs are addressed in all relevant decisions, laws and policies.

Increasing access to new and transformative prevention technologies, such as the Dapivirine Ring, was a key theme across the project.

Where Empowered for Change worked

E4C worked in Kenya and Uganda, countries that have the joint third-largest HIV epidemic in the world and where we see high rates of HIV among young women.

Programme details: Empowered for Change was a one-year programme (April 2021 – April 2022) funded by the New Venture Fund. The consortium consists of: LVCT Health Kenya, Uganda Youth Coalition on Adolescent SRHR and HIV (CYSRA) and Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU).