Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
Nearly one half, of Uganda's present population of 31 million is comprised of those under 15 years of age. Specifically, adolescents, defined as those 10-19 years of age, comprise 24% of the total population. In Uganda, 25% of all adolescents between 15 and 19 years of age will have had their first sexual experience by the age of 15. These early sexual experiences are especially a concern for young adolescent women as many of them are coerced.These sexual experiences often result in either early childbearing or unsafe abortions.They also expose young people to the risk of acquiring HIV. The prevalence for STD's and HIV is also high among Ugandan adolescents. It is estimated that youth comprise 50% of those infected with HIV. Again, young girls are particularly at risk for STD's and HIV as many trade sex for material needs.
Safer sex practices and contraceptive use are not universal among the adolescent population of Uganda for a variety of reasons. Many adolescents cite the unavailability of services, various myths about contraceptive methods, and lack of control as reasons why they are unable or unwilling to practice safer sex or use modern contraceptive methods.Rukungiri District has a population of 316,000 with the majority of the population engaged in Agriculture. The HIV prevalence rate of the district is 7% which is higher than the national average of 6.4%. According to secondary school headteachers, the school dropout rate is very high especially for girls and these are largely attributed to pregnancy and a desire to get married. The district is largely rural and traditional norms and values especially those which place women in positions of cultural, social and economic vulnerability are still largely upheld.Although the district is not among the poorest in Uganda, it has four rural sub counties (Bwambara, Bugangari, Nyarushanje and Nyakishenyi) whose populations are very vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty. There are elected political leaders at all levels of political administration with four Members of Parliament( 3 for constituencies and 1 district woman MP), an elected District Chairman with elected councilors at district and sub county levels. There are also technocrats at the district headed by a Chief Administrative Officer who is the accounting officer of the district. SHIP works with both technical officers and political leaders to mobilize trainees, select schools in which to intervene and follow up issues identified by sexual health educators during their sessions. The Project is greatly appreciated by the district leadership especially because it addresses pertinent social issues but also because it is the only intervention in this field that they have had in the last 5 years.The political leaders have pledged to support the project with free radio airtime for example, and the technical officers have pledged to avail themselves to address issues that our Sexual Health Educators are not able to address. We also work closely with St. Karoli Lwanga Hospital Nursing school Nyakibale to recruit trainees for the project as well as resource persons to answer questions that are of a technical nature in the medical field. Most of the people trained as Sexual Health Educators are either health workers or teachers. They therefore add value to the schools from which they are recruited as they have been assigned new roles following the training. In case of teachers, under the SHIP model they are deployed in schools other than those in which they are employed because their own students may not freely talk about intimate issues in their presence. There are very big challenges with transport in the district and public vehicles do not reach most of the schools in which we implement. As such, the Sexual Health Educators have to take motor cycles(boda boda) to reach their schools to conduct sessions, otherwise the mobile telephone network is very effective and makes mobilization and coordination of teams a lot easier. The big challenge for the project now is to mobilize a modest transport allowance to facilitate the Sexual Health educators to do their work consistently throughout the year. This would ease planning and make it easier for them to secure permission from their employers and also enable headteachers to plan for the sessions way ahead of time. Headteachers reported that they have already started observing higher levels of assertiveness and discipline among the students who have had attended SHIP sessions.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
The Sexual Health Improvement Project(SHIP) was conceived after a training in Israel on Sexual Health and HIV prevention for adolescents in 2007. The trainees from Uganda returned home and developed a proposal on how to use the skills they had acquired to make a contribution to addressing the sexual health challenges of young people.
Each of the three SHIP founders has a need to protect young people. The chairperson of the project lost her childhood friend to AIDS at the age of 28. This friend got pregnant at the age of 14 and dropped out of school.Because of poverty and the weak social safety nets, she was not able to go back to school after having the baby. She had to find means of feeding her child since her parents also hardly had enough to feed themselves and their six children. Unfortunately, she resorted to having relationships with one older man after the other who could give her financial assistance. The habit grew and that defined who she was in the community.Pleas for behavior change fell on deaf ears even when a good Samaritan had taken on the responsibility of fully looking after her child. It became apparent that she had acquired HIV from one of her several partners and did not see any reason to change her behavior. It was a very painful thing to see what had happened to a friend.Other young lives are destroyed daily under similar circumstances because of lack of information, powerlessness and people to encourage them to make responsible decisions.This is the root of the passion with which the SHIP team is steering this project.