MASERU – As a step towards intensifying efforts towards preventing HIV and STIs amongst adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in the country, the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA) has launched a project called HER Voice Fund. HER Voice Fund is a Global Fund initiative supported by ViiV Healthcare to ensure young women and girls have a meaningful voice in decisions that affect their health.
The project is a platform intended to advocate for AGYW involvement in development strategies, and planned to address challenges that they come across, particularly while engaging in relevant policy and programme design processes that directly affects their lives – as well as other indirect factors that make them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
The HER Voice Fund provides support for the meaningful engagement and leadership of AGYW and community-based organizations and other national and district level processes funded to the tune of M110 000 funded by the Global Fund.
Expected applications are from organisations that can demonstrate their capacity to work with and engage AGYW from all levels including and not limited to district, regional and national level, and the most targeted areas are Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek and Quthing on three months duration. Applications were supposed to have begun coming in December last year, but due to COVID-19 pandemic commencement was delayed.
The plan is to scale up advocacy for cooperation with government and other partners to prevent child marriages, to also improve the well-being of adolescent girls and young women living with HIV in Lesotho. Provided funding is envisaged to be allocated towards strengthening the engaging AGYW living with HIV in different decision-making platforms at the national level.
It will be used to increase awareness of the challenges AGYW living with HIV face in Lesotho, conduct online discussions with young people living with HIV through different online platforms particularly WhatsApp.
The LPPA collaborates with different network of young people living with HIV such as Sentebale, Kick4Life, SOS Children’s Villages, World Vision, Paballong Centre and Baylor Clinic including the youth action movement which is supported by LPPA. The project will seek to mobilize 100 AGYW through these networks to participate in an online discussion through the WhatsApp platform. The team shall divide the discussions into teams of 10-15 participants per discussion to ensure meaningful discussion.
The results of these discussions shall be documented by the team. The team shall also undertake documentation of their stories that are meant to capture the daily realities of young people. The project shall undertake community dialogues and discussion with AGYW living with HIV. The discussions shall seek to document the challenges of AGYW targeting different communities. The result of these discussions shall be captured through videos and write ups that shall be used to create awareness to different duty bearers on the challenges and experiences.
The LPPA is one of the key partners of the Ministry of Health and has been in existence in the 10 districts of Lesotho for more than 50 years, providing integrated HIV/Sexual and Reproductive Health services and information to adolescent girls, young women and youth including key populations. LPPA has served and continues to serve the most vulnerable, underserved and hard-to reach communities with quality integrated services to ensure that no one is left behind.
They have partnered with People’s Matrix and LIRAC in implementing a Global Fund project providing HIV testing services for Female Sex Workers and MSMs in Maseru and Maputsoe. The partnership and ability to deliver targets yielded in LPPA being viewed as one of the key partners to consider in order reaching vulnerable populations.
LPPA is currently engaged in Providing Universal Services for HIV/AIDS project from EGPAF to directly provide comprehensive package of HIV/AIDS services in Maseru, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek. The key targets under this project are adolescents, key populations and men.
The Global Fund created the HER Voice Fund in recognition of the vital role AGYW have in driving and shaping the HIV response yet logistical, administrative and language barriers often hinder the meaningful participation of AGYW representatives in policy and decision-making spaces. The HER Voice Fund provides small grants to AGYW-led community-based groups to facilitate participation and engagement.