Midlands AIDS Service Organisation (MASO) Sexual and Reproductive Health ICS project, Gueru, January 2016

The community in Gweru has the highest HIV prevalence rate in the Midlands Province at 23%.  There is a need to reach young people to increase awareness about prevention with the goal of creating an HIV free Generation.   There is also a major challenge in increasing community uptake of services such as STI treatment, ART and, HIV counselling and testing. 

Gweru has a large number of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) who lost their parents to HIV.  The OVC are often cared for by elderly people such as grandmothers who struggle to meet their basic needs.  There is therefore a need to support livelihoods activities to enable the carers to support themselves and their dependents. Orphans and vulnerable children and particularly susceptible to abuse and are often unaware of their rights.   There is a need to empower both the OVC and care givers to ensure that the rights of children are upheld and a safe environment is created. 

The major value of ICS is increasing reach through the youth to youth approach. While there are programs already in existence to reach to young people, it is important to intensify the reach through other young people. This will reduce barriers and enable young people to come up with appropriate approaches  themselves.

On Children issues and livelihoods we expect value addition in developing new innovative ways of maximising markets for the livelihoods projects, and improving the management of these projects. The volunteers will create more dialogue with communities on the effective ways of ensuring children are protected. The main target for the livelihoods activities would be supporting the grandmothers who are caregivers of OVC. The granny led households are more vulnerable because of their age and would need more support in their livelihoods.

As this was the first cycle of the project, the intial stages involved planning, conducting baselines to derive a needs assessment of the communities the volunteers planned to work with, Thereafter the volunteers began conducting sessions with the given communities addressing the short term outcomes in the project plan.

At the onset of the cycle, the volunteers, as a team, identified the areas they were interested in working in, out of the 3 objectives HIV/AIDS, Child Rights and IGAs. In the different teams they then conducted their initial baselines which informed the activities that the volunteers would be carrying out during the placement. The planning was also highly influenced by the partner organisation Programmes personnel who provided guidance on the groundwork needed to be done, the necessary stakeholders to work with in the community as well the type of activities volunteers could conduct within the given communities.  The teams then came up with calendars of activities and events that they would do in the duration of the cycle.

The volunteers attempted to gauge the views of the community members by asking for feedback from the beneficiaries after every workshop conducted. This was done orally by asking the beneficiaries if they enjoyed the session and if there was anything else they wanted to know or if they have any suggestions to improve future sessions. Beneficiaries also completed feedback forms which were distributed after the first workshops and changes were made to the next workshops based on the feedback received. At the end of the workshops and during events they also conducted informal interviews with a handful of individual beneficiaries and asked them what impact this programme has had on them.

The workshops brought useful ideas to our group and taught us new techniques on how to manage IGAs. It opened us up to new ideas and now we are able to do book keeping, calculate profit and deal with challenges.

Said Liliosa Nyoni, beneficiary of Kungoedza granny support group.

Some immediate results included:

Increased knowledge of HIV services by young people:The volunteers made some progress in increasing the knowledge of the youths on HIV services available to young people. 92% of the youths who completed the final and initial baseline questionnaires have shown an increase in knowledge on the HIV and AIDS services available. 80% of the youths have shown an increase in knowledge on what HIV and AIDS stands for. 

Increased knowledge of child rights amongs OVCs and caregivers: Some progress in increasing the knowledge of OVC’s and caregivers on child rights. Caregivers  were very attentive in the workshops and their feedback showed their keenness to improve child treatment and fulfill their rights. The final baselines were constructed without prompting (tick boxes). Overall the people who identified the 4 types of child abuse went up by 55%. Number of wrong answers for Birth Certificate knowledge went down by 24%. Number of wrong answers for who to contact if abused went down by 50%. Number of wrong answers for Child Rights went down by 10.6% while those who identified at least 1 Child right with no wrong answers went up by 32%.

Increase in knowledge on managing IGAs: 88% of the grannies  are now able to calculate profit, although some of them still rely on the stronger members of the team to help them. The beneficiaries now have a broader knowledge of marketing strategies but more work still needs to be done to encourage them to implement these techniques on a practical basis. 

The beneficiaries have increased their knowledge on record keeping but we feel that they need more practice using the templates and managing their working and starting costs independently. 71%  of the beneficiaries over ally have had increased confidence in managing IGAs.

What long-term changes might be seen as a result of the team’s work?

We are anticipating an improved uptake of HIV services by young people in Gweru.

We are anticipating that children and caregivers are able to engage duty bearers on issues affecting OVCs including access to birth certificates, education and addressing issues on child rights.

Improved IGA performance for the granny caregivers which leads to increased household income.

There will be 3 other ICS teams coming to work on the MASO project till December 2016. As the current team managed to conduct all the needed baselines the coming teams will build on the team left and begin to feed into the longer term outcomes as well as still complete some work feeding into the short term outcomes.

The youths are now aware of the misconceptions that they had in regards to HIV and AIDS. We now know the importance of getting tested and the HIV and AIDS services available.

Said Grace Moyo, Mkoba Baptist Youth Club.

The programme helps improve organizational visibility and impact. It energises communities for increased impact and inputs fresh ideas to programming that goes well with endemic organizational systems. It helps reach out to more beneficiaries and improves efficiency.

Said Mr Jabulani Mapingire , Programmes Manager MASO

This project has been a success and this has been attributed to a number of factors: 

The full involvement of partner project staff from the planning stages through to implementation of the programme. 

Clear provision of  M&E reporting guidelines for volunteers right at the beginning of the cycle and constantly monitoring and reminding them on reporting on project outcomes to help focus their work

Clear mapping out of the stakeholders that would be involved in the project

A well sensitized and welcoming community that is open to learning and development.

The project also fits well into the wider Progressio Zimbabwe organisational strategic goals, and is contributing towards the Sustainable and Resilient Livelihoods goal targeting OVCs and grandmother caregivers and Women’s Rights strategic goals targeting young people on SRHR as well as child rights.

The grandmothers are being empowered to have better performing livelihoods and thus increasing household income to better support the OVCs and themselves. Young people now have clear knowledge on where to access HIV services. This cycle has clearly proved that this is happening and we have beneficiaries testifying that they have greatly benefited from the work the ICS volunteers are carrying out.