President Yoweri Museveni launched the initiative on June 6 this year.
Kibuuka Amooti, Mubende LC5 Chairman Kibuuka Amoooti inpects some of the classwork by Sparked Women in Kiyuni sub-county, Mubende. (Credit: Elvis Basudde)
FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS
The LC5 chairman Mubende district, Kibuuka Amooti, has hailed stakeholders in the HIV fight and pledged to team up with them to implement the presidential fast-track initiative on eliminating the scourge of HIV & AIDS in Uganda by 2030.
"We need to push this initiative, the first such initiative in Africa and the entire world," he said.
"The initiative follows concerns by the president about the increasing prevalence of the killer disease in the last few years, despite tremendous achievements in the past," says Kibuuka.
President Yoweri Museveni launched the initiative on June 6 this year.
Kibuuka was launching an innovation program in Kiyuuni sub-county that is hoped to curb unemployment amongst vulnerable adolescent and young women.
Dubbed 'Sparked Women', the project will train young women between 15 to 24 years in creative skills and innovations and create employment opportunities for as many as 7,772 women.
"A woman is the greatest gift everybody has ever received," said Kibuuuka.
"She plays a significant role to the society. As she strives to nurture and teach a child, she explicitly makes the world a better place. She indeed rules the world.
"I am therefore happy with these innovations to address factors leading to vulnerability of young women to ensure that they can prevent new HIV infections," said Kibuuka.
The International Community of Women Living with HIV in Eastern Africa (ICWEA), a regional advocacy network, is spearheading the project in partnership with SAWA WORLD, NAFOPHANU, and Health Entrepreneur Model, with support from AIDS FOND.
The Sparked Women project is part of a bigger program called DREAMS, a PEPFER program that was started with the intention of reducing new HIV infections among young women.
Vulnerable adolescents and young women line up to be enrolled for the Sparked Women Project in Kiyuni. (Credit: Elvis Basudde)
Kibuuka said the project's intervention on training young women in practical skills in order to give them economic empowerment is a provocation to the district to think harder and do better.
"I thank you for identifying these vulnerable women who lack support. Equipped with such skills, they are now able to make some income on their own without engaging in behavior risks that could increase chances of getting the HIV infection," he said.
According to Brenda Facy Azizuyo, ICWEA project coordinator of Sparked Women Project, the training session takes two days and trainees are taken through all the options and each chooses whatever feels simpler for her. The options are: making usable sanitary pads, making paper bags, books binding, juice making and making liquid soap.
"As trainers conduct their lessons in classrooms, they build the leaners' confidence by sharing their personal experience in what they have gone through and how they have overcome the challenges. This approach instills confidence into trainees. We also train them in marketing skills," said Azizuyo.
Trainers do not stop at that, they also conduct a four days training in health aspect on sexual reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, nutritional issues, sanitation, family planning, and other health aspects. They have so far trained 88 Village Health Trainers (VATs) in Mubende district who are already sensitizing young women using videos.
Sparked Women Project is a two years project which kicked off last year in September ending in September 2018. The target is for each training session to train 180 vulnerable women and by the end of the project over 7,772 employment opportunities shall have been created.
Azizuyo says a young woman needs a lot of mentoring otherwise if you just give her information it may mean nothing. A young woman needs to be followed. The VHTs follow up these girls who have been trained on a monthly basis to see how they are fairing.
The project is training young women in Mityana and Mubende districts and it has so far covered 10 sub counties in both districts. It is said that 71% of the young women in the whole world contribute to HIV spread. In Uganda alone, 575 adolescents and young women between 15 to 24 years get infected with HIV on a weekly basis (MOH report).
Kibuuka says that they feel that if this young woman is sensitized and given economic empowerment through skills, she will be able to safeguard herself against the new HIV infection. Poverty is one reason why these girls get infected. Some girls are unable to be in school for some reason or they luck basic needs like sanitary pads in their lives.
"We want these girls to change their lives after they have been economically empowered and have all the 6 attributes of DREAMS to manifest in them. DREAMS in full is DETERMINED, RESILIENT, EMPOWERED, AIDS-FREE, MENTORED and SAFE. At the end of the day this girl should have some savings and be portrayed under DREAMS," says Azizuyo (pictured below).
She however regrets that these young women have less support from their families to help them start business after they have been trained. She says the project doesn't give them startup capital apart from training them at a free cost. The main challenge of these girls, according to her, is lack of capital since most of them come from deed down background.
Some however have managed to start to do business after training (replicate). The trainee's success is measured based on how many they have been able to replicate and how many are able to get a small income on their own and how many can sell and get a profit.
The district's offer
Kibuuka pledged to finance the young women who have been trained to start up projects in their field of training. He advised them to make a group of 15 people in whatever they have been trained in if they need to get financial support from the district.
"As a district, Sparked Women Project has really provoked us. Make groups of 15 women under Sparked Women and my office will finance you to startup businesses in your areas and have a source of income. Your products have demand you might not even be able to satisfy the market demand. These products are demanded in Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Nairobi and the market is inexhaustible," he said.
Kibuuka said that 72 groups of youth in his district have been helped with capital totaling sh 42 m in Kiyuni Sub County alone, courtesy of president Museveni's initiative to fight poverty. He also promised to get them markets for their products. .
"Concentrate on your work. Do not be in a rush to get involved in love affair because your right time is coming. We give out this money and you spend a year with it, you will have made some profits. We have been looking for young people like you to benefit from this money given from president Museveni's office," he said.
Stressing the importance of the fast truck initiative, Kibuuka said that it has a 5-Point plan which illustrates the President's commitment to re-invigorate a more focused, aggressive and urgent momentum towards achieving control of the epidemic in Uganda.
One of the plans is to ensure financial sustainability for the HIV response, which is in line with the Sparked Women Project. He said that there are 1.5 million people living with HIV and on an annual basis we are seeing that there are people who are acquiring the virus. This must stop, he said.