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2019 – Zambia

Technology to Enhance Access to Education & Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Zambia

Partner: Stephen Lewis Foundation

Background

Young, Happy, Healthy and Safe (YHHS) is a community-based organization working to strengthen and protect girls and women in the rural Eastern Province of Zambia.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation and YHHS have worked together since 2008. Since then, they have entered into 11 consecutive agreements for funding in these areas: education (especially for girls), psychosocial support, income-generating activities for caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children, information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, community sensitization on violence against women and girls and human rights, peer education, and support for HIV-positive youth.

YHHS takes a holistic and human rights-based approach to girls’ education, guided by a deep understanding of everything needed to ensure that girls have access to quality education and a brighter future. Through years of experience, YHHS has learned, first-hand, of the complex socio-economic barriers that girls face, and the vital role that access to education plays in mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS.

The area where YHHS works is deeply impacted by the Great East Road – the only highway connecting the Eastern Province, where YHHS is based – to the rest of the country, and also the main road connecting Zambia to Malawi and northern Mozambique. It is a huge and busy thoroughfare, which brings transient populations, sex work, HIV and addiction to small, rural communities along its path.

HIV thrives in such circumstances, especially amongst the most vulnerable. Across Zambia, HIV prevalence in young women aged 20-24 is 11%, while it is 7% among young men of the same age. A further 380,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS.

Project objectives

With a $50,000 grant from 60 million girls, YHHS will reach 2,000 children and youth with information on sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention, pay school fees for 100 girls, produce sanitary pads for 150 girls, provide 150 students with school supplies, train peer educators and form girl networks, oversee income-generating initiatives for young women, and work with local leaders and government services to ensure the registration of girls in school.

YHHS has also identified the important need for new technology to improve access to quality education for girls in remote rural communities. A Mobile Learning Lab (MLL) will integrate seamlessly and beautifully into this panoply of care. In an area where electricity is erratic and Internet access is not dependable, and where many girls are behind on their education, the MLL will help students, teachers and families ensure dependable access to critical information about the curriculum, training modules, sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, income generation and community activism. More importantly, it will lead to student-led and -initiated learning.

The addition of a Mobile Learning Lab to the community will make a unique contribution to medium- and long-term resilience and capacity of the community. It will empower girls and women with information and technological know-how. It will bring new sources of vital, life-saving information – and a new level of privacy to seek out information that girls, in particular, may be shy requesting. It will enable more peer educators and local women leaders to be trained and supported. Introducing online electronic information – tailored to the needs of the community and accessible and properly supported – will have a wide-ranging and deep-seated positive impact.

YHHS uses the Whole School Site model, which sees the school as the focal point of a community and the point of origin for all outreach and wider education efforts. YHHS staff keeps careful, detailed records on all aspects of each girl’s educational experience and performance: attendance records, test results, health visits and records, club memberships and extracurricular involvement. They are constantly checking in with girls to ensure that their school and home lives are healthy, happy and supportive.

Working with community leaders is integral to YHHS’ ethos. They hold regular stakeholder meetings with local chiefs, teachers and health centre staff to ensure they are aware of and meeting girls’ rights and unique educational, community and health needs.

Why partner with the Stephen Lewis Foundation?

The Stephen Lewis Foundation and 60 million girls have a longstanding relationship of mutual trust, respect and support. We share the same unflinching awareness of and commitment to the primary place of girls’ education in any efforts to improve the human condition. The fit between 60 million girls and YHHS is equally clear. YHHS’ entire ethos and program of work are built around a dedication to the education of children – and of girls in particular – as the main tool for avoiding poverty, violence, HIV infection, early marriage and pregnancy. This grant will target all the issues around girls’ education, health, independence and safety to which 60 million girls is committed, and will add a crucial technological dimension that YHHS has thus far been unable to maximize.