We have recently completed a very interesting and inspiring project with Stop Aids Now!* The purpose of the project was to create a facilitator's toolkit that can be used by communities in Sub-Saharan Africa in their work to empower woman and girls. HIV rates are often higher among women and girls, and women and girls living with HIV tend to bear a heavier burden. This increased vulnerability is largely due to gender-based discrimination. To be effective, HIV prevention, care and support must contribute to transforming gender based attitudes, behaviours, and norms. The toolkit takes the participant on a journey using an appreciative frame.
The project worked closely with community organisations to co-create a product that is strengthening to the community, and take into account local practices.
Different way of working in the community
Experience of Stop Aids Now! in Kenya has shown that a change in perceptions, beliefs and behaviours of both men and women on gender equality is possible through a different way of working in the community. Behaviour change happens over a more extended period of time, and therefore activities and discussions in small groups which happen in-depth, over a longer period of time with a consistent group is most effective. This effectiveness is further enhanced when activities are facilitated by community leaders or peer-education volunteers trusted by the community. Often, the entry points to these discussions are not sensitive issues such as HIV or sex, but economic empowerment, education and religion.
The toolkit was specifically designed to support this process and to enable the facilitators to support behaviour change. The learning process of community members can be compared to a journey. In the toolkit we utilise the idea of the mythical ‘heroic journey’ as a framework for thinking about the learning process. The consultants also consciously used an appreciative frame to design the learning thread of the toolkit. Such an approach assumes that every person, every community and every organisation has some capacity and strengths to build on. It focuses on positive aspects about the organisation or community that are tangible sources of hope and learning.
In feedback sessions and train-the-trainer sessions, the community organisations provided overwhelmingly positive feedback to the toolkit and the impact this can have on their work. Kessels & Smit South Africa was responsible for the project management and learning design of the project specifically, and worked with a Kenyan consultant, Pascaline Kang'ethe to produce a product which is relevant for the target audience and their challenges.
*STOP AIDS NOW! aims to expand and improve the Dutch contribution to the global response to HIV and AIDS. Five organisations, the Aids Fonds, Hivos, ICCO, Cordaid and Oxfam Novib, have joined forces and are part of STOP AIDS NOW!