In rural Zambia a community-based organisation is working with authorities and community members to reach young people with information on their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Based in Chipata in eastern Zambia, Young, Happy, Healthy and Safe (HAPPY) has an ‘in-school’ and an ‘out-of-school’ programme, to reach young people whether or not they attend school.
CHANKHANGA BASIC SCHOOL, CHIPATA
Chankhanga is one of the four schools where HAPPY has delivered sexuality and lifestyle training for teachers, who deliver the classes using the Our Future series.
HAPPY has involved the Ministry of Education as well as teachers in developing the programme. Tuma Mufuzi has been deputy head at Chankhanga for over three years. He’s noticed a difference the support has HAPPY has made, including see the drop-out rate for teenage girls reducing: “We used to lose about 20 girls in a year but now it’s gone down to 10-15.”
Tuma believes this is because, “parents have also been sensitised which helps. When girls get pregnant they don’t keep them at home they come back to school… parents realise the importance of education and there is help from HAPPY.”
Working in the community has helped reinforce this message from both directions. The fact that HAPPY’s small team of three are all local has been instrumental in reaching communities.
They have engaged with chiefs in order to gain the trust and interest of the community and train traditional leaders (Alangizi) and peer educators.
“The training has helped reduce HIV tremendously in these communities because the chiefs have taken the lead in discouraging practices that are fuelling the spread of HIV,” says Zikhalo Phiri, programme director of HAPPY.
Elizabeth, a peer educator, explains: “Before the training of peer educators and Alangizi people didn’t know where to go for help. So the training helped young people access the information. They feel confident that the Alangizi won’t tell them harmful traditional practices so this is making them believe and trust in the information they’re given. This is contributing to seeing increasing numbers of young people come to get help.”
Zikhalo says he couldn’t achieve all this without the support of Alliance Zambia, which has supported HAPPY with both their organisational development and programming.
“For us working with them is a plus because most donors only provide funding, but the situation is different with Alliance Zambia,” says Zikhalo. “They visit us, they support us, they build the capacity of our staff.”
Sithembil Sakala, HAPPY programme officer, says: “When we found that there wasn’t much information for Alangizis or peer educators on family planning we gave this feedback to Alliance Zambia. They organised training on family planning for our community members.”
Established in 1999, Alliance Zambia has supported over 200 NGOs in Zambia which, like HAPPY, deliver a range of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programmes. The HAPPY programme is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).