NAC Sista2Sista initiative more than HIV intervention

23 May, 2024 - 10:05 0 Views
NAC Sista2Sista initiative more than HIV intervention Kubatana Club young mothers attending a Sista2Sista mentorship session at Umbowe Clinic in Mhangura district recently

The Sunday News

Sharon Tawuya

Two-year-old Tariro (not her real name) is the daughter of Grace Mabhutsu, who is 23 years old.

Grace became a mother at 21, after reaching the pinnacle of Zimbabwe’s mandatory formal education, albeit, without identity documents.

To write Grade Seven and Ordinary level examinations, teachers at the school vouched for her identity.

She heard about the Sista2Sista National Aids Council (NAC) HIV intervention through her peers three years ago, when she was already married and pregnant.

Girls in the Maboe village in Mhangura encouraged Grace to attend sessions at the KubatanaSista2Sista club, a girls’ empowerment programme run through the National Aids Council.

It offers a safe place where vulnerable, adolescent girls can speak with mentors as well as each other about their problems.

For many young women and girls, making safe and informed choices, that could limit their exposure to HIV, is no simple task. A young woman in poverty may be forced to exchange sex for favours or to accept a marriage proposal from an older man.

Every day, 460 adolescent girls become infected with HIV worldwide. Empowering young women to make safer, more informed choices is often hailed as the way to turn this catastrophic situation around.

In Zimbabwe, new HIV infections among young women aged 15–24 years are almost four times higher than in men their age.

For many young women and girls, making choices that could limit their exposure to HIV, is no simple task.

NAC believes the Sista2Sista initiative reduces girls’ vulnerability to HIV as they learn about sexual and reproductive health and rights, financial literacy, as well as how to navigate difficult social situations, including coercive relationships.

The programme also aims to give girls the confidence and self-esteem to stand up for themselves.

Grace opened up to her Mentor Fortunate Chimbaru that she didn’t have identity documents because even her parents also did not have.

“We were told about scholarships for tertiary education that’s when I told her my problem of not having identity documents. Through NAC and the traditional village leadership, we reached out to my parents who are based in Murehwa, and were assisted to get the documents.  In their late 40s, my parents didn’t also have identity documents. My daughter also got her birth certificate after I got mine,” she said.

“Even my siblings got the national identity documents. Growing up without being documented affected me emotionally because I had great plans to go to college but I knew it wouldn’t be possible without an

I.D.,” said Grace.

Fortunate Chimbaru, from Umboe area in Mashonaland West province, is a mentor for young girls and adolescents under the Sista2Sista programme being implemented by the National Aids Council (NAC).

She mentors 50 girls at a time, taking them through lessons on HIV and Aids and various behaviour change initiatives for a year.

Chimbaru said the program managed to model the young women who are at risk of getting HIV infections and getting early unwanted pregnancies to know their status, practice safe sex, and desist from risky behaviour.

“I deal with 15 to 24-year-olds here in ward 4, usually young mothers who are vulnerable because their spouses are artisanal miners and now they are living healthily,” she said.

She said even members of the community were noticing behaviour change in the young girls.

Mother to a beneficiary, Tendai Charuma said the Sista2Sista programme had helped her change her life for the better.

“My daughter got married and wedded last year courtesy of the sista2Sista initiative,” she said.

Itayi Mutereso (19), a Sista2Sista graduate said she learnt the responsibility of getting tested for HIV and accessing related services.

“I have been taught how to prevent HIV infections, how to respect the elderly, and how to budget and use finances responsibly.

“We have been assisted with school uniforms, books and we now go to school wearing shoes, unlike before when we did not have much,” she said.

A senior teacher at Richmond High School in the same district said the Sista2Sista initiative is keeping girls in schools while also discouraging them from getting married early.

According to the NAC,  intergenerational sex, low-risk perception, and multiple concurrent sexual partnerships are some of the key HIV drivers in the province with seven districts, where at least 143 000 people are living with the infection.

New Ziana

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