At age 17, Evelyne Adhiambo was a single mother of one, and while getting pregnant with her second in the near future was something she wanted to avoid, she wasn’t sure how to make that a reality. “I only knew about condoms and pills,” she remembers. “This is risky because sometimes you can forget to [...]
This April, 13-year-old Anne Victorine Orinda was one of hundreds of teens who attended Lwala Community Alliance “Better Break” activities. Anne is the third of six children and in class 7 at Minyenya Primary School. She is determined to study hard, regularly attend school, and improve her grades but also knows that by not getting pregnant, she’ll have a better chance at meeting these goals.
In Lwala and surrounding communities, school breaks are traditionally times when teen girls and young women are more vulnerable to unplanned pregnancy, sexual abuse, and HIV. This vulnerability spikes because they are away from the routines of school and the presence of caring teachers.
To reduce this vulnerability, Lwala Community Alliance began partnering with the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation, The Conservation, Food & Health Foundation, and Planned Parenthood Global to provide “Better Breaks” by targeting 2,000 boys and girls, ages 13-19, in its service area.
So, how are breaks made “better”? Lwala Community Alliance believes in four ways:
- Building self-agency of teen boys and girls through youth-led activities
- Creating safe spaces for teens to talk about sexual and reproductive health and access services
- Building the economic capacity of teen mothers to reduce vulnerability to added risk
- Documenting evidence of reduced teen pregnancy and risk to HIV and sharing lessons with peer organizations and the sexual and reproductive health field at large
Here’s what we’ve accomplished in 2015, to date:
Lwala Community Alliance staff recruited a 10-member teen host committee to co-lead planning and activity implementation for holiday break activities in April. Activities included teacher-led sessions on sexual and reproductive health issues, sessions about the value of education and careers, Youth Peer Provider training, songs, and games. These efforts resulted in more than 720 students attending activities at a partner health facility, Minyenya Dispensary – just one of the “Better Breaks” locations.
In March, Lwala Community Alliance launched a youth-friendly corner at Minyenya Dispensary. The corner is stocked with sexual and reproductive health educational materials and is staffed with two Youth Peer Providers (who provide sexual and reproductive health education) and one nurse (who provides screenings, testing, and contraceptives). At the same time, Lwala Community Alliance provides youth-friendly services (including HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing and counseling, pregnancy testing, contraceptives, and voluntary male medical male circumcision) at the Lwala Community Hospital. This year, 8 youth-friendly clinics have been conducted at various locations in the community; these clinics have included education sessions, youth activities, and testing/screenings.
Economic Development for Teen Girls
Lwala Community Alliance recruited 67 girls, who have dropped out of school (40 of whom are young mothers), to participate in one of five mentoring groups in the community. Mentoring sessions focus on self-agency, confidence, and financial and life skills. Five female adult mentors were trained to lead mentoring groups and teach topics on decision-making, sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence. In June, these 67 girls will begin participating in income generating activities to continue building their economic capacity.
At the end of April, Lwala Community Alliance conducted a survey with the girls enrolled in the mentoring program. This information will guide mentors in adapting future sessions to the specific needs of the girls.
With partners like the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation, The Conservation, Food & Health Foundation, and Planned Parenthood Global, we are laying a foundation for long-term benefits like increased gender parity in school, reduced lifetime fertility, and a reduced HIV burden in the community at large. But we are also impacting individuals right now – such as girls like Anne, who are deciding to not become pregnant and to stay in school. “I am very grateful for this program and want it to continue during every holiday break,” she said.