NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL!
We started going to Kauma about 3 years ago. We had a clear vision; mobilise girls, talk to them about the importance of education and go back to our normal lives. We were three young women passionate about girls’ education, feminism and creating safe spaces for other girls and young women. One thing we were sure about is we wanted to do something.
So we started. With the little we had. We started.
Throughout 3 years Growing Ambitions has evolved to just conducting talks with the girls once a month to an organization that provides so much more. We are reaching out 22 girls and young women in the peri urban area of Kauma, located on the outskirts of Lilongwe the capital city of Malawi.
Our passion to build the capacity of girls and young women from peri- urban areas to take full charge of their lives in all areas is at the center of this organization. When women and girls are given the opportunity, access and resources they need, they make informed decisions and choices that positively impact their own lives and that of future generations. Our focus is on offering mentorship and creating a safe space for girls and young women to interact. We envision a Malawi where girls, regardless of their socio- economic status or past negative experiences, take charge of their lives and thrive!
For the 3 years that Growing Ambitions has been in existence, one thing we’ve learned is that flexibility is key for programs that are working on HIV prevention for AGYW. Young women are diverse, so a once-off kind of program cannot expect to succeed. Organisations working on similar programs need more leg room. From our experience, when we officially launched our organization we had core activities planned, but with time we have had to learn, unlearn at the same time accepting how far we can stretch ourselves. We have moved from conducting monthly mentorship sessions to providing financial support to the girls through provision of scholastic materials, school fees, buying uniforms and even paying for day care services.
Some of the girls who are part of our program have children and simply need someone to take care of the child while they go to school. So we have found ourselves paying for day care services but also moving beyond that and involving the parents and guardians to get them to support the girls and the program as a whole.
Programs and organisations need to adapt. Fast!
It might not be easiest and most practical thing for formal structured organisations but leave some leg room.
No one size fits all when it comes to programs dealing with AGYW on HIV prevention.
Growing Ambition’s example can be modeled and here is a simple list of recommendations from our own personal experience.
1. There is need for a holistic approach when delivering programs; if you cannot do it all- COLLABORATE!
2. Learn from others; know what is working BUT most importantly be willing to bend a little and find what works for your context
3. MONEY! We need long term projects, nothing less than 5 years to see real change and impact on the ground.
4. Most importantly- invest and fund community based and young women led organisations, there is so much we are doing, models that we can scale up and amplify but no one wants to fund us.
5. Involve beneficiaries and all other relevant stakeholders from inception stage