Protecting Young Women And Adolescent Girls From HIV
“We Are All Responsible For Protecting Young Women And Adolescent Girls From Hiv, From Policy-Makers To Community Leaders. We Need To Identify Men As Role Models To Mentor Young Men.” - Khanya Mabuza
Initially, it was challenging to understand about the gender differences, challenges, and opportunities within the community. Nevertheless, after expressing keen interest, my knowledge increased by having verbal conversations with community members, and conducting personal observation. This shed more light on the problems within the community including the high rate of poverty, sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, and violence, and the low rate of emotional support within the family. My motivation to engage with boys and men was kindled from the feeling of helping others, awareness that gender inequality undermines health and development, male’s involvement reduces poverty, and the need to promote more equitable relationships, which improves the physical, mental, social wellbeing of the family. After careful thought, a positive male role model within the community became my counterpart to promote my work in engaging boys and men within the community.
Subsequently, the Baba Bora (Good Father/Husband) Group was created. The group members meet once a month, to discuss about strategies to reach more boys and men with compelling messages during gatherings, including weddings and funerals, and at other locations where they congregate such as the coffee shop and at the game corner. These messages include involving actively in responsible sexual and reproductive behavior including increasing knowledge on the transmission, prevention, testing, and resources for sexually transmitted diseases, to reduce STIs and increase family planning uptake; practicing good hygiene and sanitation (cutting grass, cleaning compound, and washing hands at critical times), accompanying wife to the clinic during antenatal visits, taking sick children to the hospital, and engaging in individual routine health tests, to improve overall family health; achieving responsible fatherhood, to improve financial and emotional support; planning monthly budget with wife and children, to reduce poverty and malnutrition; reducing violence; promoting more equitable division of labor and childcare in the home, and creating a safe space in the family whereby fathers may be more open to have conversations with their sons and daughters on sensitive topics including menstruation, risky behaviors, and reducing early pregnancy. We have already discovered additional opportunities and locations to reach more boys and men, so that these messages will be spread far and wide. It is our goal to improve the health and development of the community by empowering women while engaging boys and men.