Adolescent Girls & Young Women
The African continent has demonstrated commitment to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. Almost all countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; more than half have ratified the African Union’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Other milestones include the African Union’s declaration of 2010–2020 as the African Women’s Decade.
Although Africa includes both low- and middle-income countries, poverty rates are still high. The majority of women work in insecure, poorly paid jobs, with few opportunities for advancement. Democratic elections are increasing, and a record number of women have successfully contested for seats. But electoral-related violence is a growing concern (UN Women).
PV’s work with adolescent girls & young women aims to:
1) support them to gain in knowledge, self-esteem, self-efficacy and self-reliance, and are better equipped to become productive citizens;
2) to support families and communities to be more supportive and inclusive of vulnerable young people in general, and those living with HIV in particular.
HIV is a disease with consequences reaching far beyond the biomedical notion of health. HIV complicates the physical, emotional and cognitive challenges of puberty as young people adapt to their changing roles and expectations within society.
APLHIV represent a growing proportion of people living with HIV. UNICEF estimates that there are 6100 (3800 girls and 2300 boys) Namibian young people living with HIV with an expectation that this number could double in the coming years.
Adolescent Girls & Young Women’s Challenges
Like other vulnerable young people, APLHIV experience low self-esteem, and often struggle more than most people their age to fit in to society. Many APLHIV have lost their natural parents, resulting in an insecurity that can be exacerbated by the reluctance of many parents / guardians to inform them of their HIV status.
Even more so than their HIV negative peers, APLHIV are prone to self-destructive behaviour such as not adhering to the medication that keeps them alive, and practicing unsafe sex, which endangers the lives of others. Because of the stigma associated with HIV, APLHIV are reluctant to speak openly about their experiences, which makes it difficult for decision makers and service providers to respond to their needs. This stigma extends into schools, where APLHIV often experience bullying and other discrimination that has a detrimental effect on their education. All of this contributes to a vicious cycle of exclusion and marginalisation that can rob APLHIV of all hope for the future.