Fighters and Survivors Speak Out: Girl Empowerment Sparks an Emotional Conversation

Attendees were so keen to participate in the “Keeping the Promise to Empower Girls” panel at the South Africa AIDS Conference, they left standing room only.  The outpouring of enthusiasm pleasantly surprised AHF staff, who helped organize the event in Durban on June 14.

“It was emotional, engaging, touching and highly educative! Indeed, this was one of the best examples of sharing best practices!” Alice Kayongo, AHF Regional Policy and Advocacy Manager for East/West Africa said. “We described the genesis and objectives of Girls Act, had a social worker to make the links and young people to tie it all together by sharing experiences of what they have achieved and what they anticipate to continue achieving from Girls Act.”

The Girls Act is the name of the AHF campaign which was introduced in November of last year during the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, explained Larissa Klazinga, AHF Regional Policy and Advocacy Manager of South Africa. “One of the main messages of the Girls Act program is building self-esteem in children, teenagers and young adults,” Klazinga added.

Nokulunga, a young HIV positive girl from the township of Umlazi courageously shared her story of challenges and triumph with the audience. Nokulung is a patient at the AHF Ithembalabantu Clinic and has been featured in The People’s Hope documentary (view the full-length film here: https://youtu.be/L_MNJaFKd9g).

“Listening to and communicating with teenage girls and young women has to be a top priority in the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa,” said Hilary Thulare, AHF South Africa Country Program Director. “Youth on our continent say there is a lack of approachable resources, with non-judgmental staff, where they can go for advice, counselling and access to health care. We need to address this so we can establish better communication with the younger generation in an effort to change attitudes towards sex and motivate them to take responsibility for their sexual behavior.”

AHF has been working in South Africa since 2002 – currently it provides treatment and care to 122,435 patients in clinics across the country. For more info, visit: https://www.aidshealth.org/#/archives/countries/za