Imagine being a young women, aged between 18 and 24 years, in the Homa Bay County on the shore of Lake Victoria in Kenya – food security may be a huge problem for you and it is likely you will experience extreme poverty, with 48% of the county living beneath the poverty line ($1.25 per day). In addition, you may also suffer from discriminatory cultural norms which could in turn increase your risk of having dropped out of school, putting you at an economic disadvantage. All these factors can create a dangerous environment to live in, where you are at a higher risk of having to try and earn money by selling sex. This leaves you vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, especially as prevalence for HIV in the county is very high (27%).
These facts paint a pretty bleak picture for the future of these young women, but thankfully Ace Africa has just received an exciting new grant from the Kathryn B. McQuade Foundation to start a project which will help improve the prospects and food security for these women.
The project, known as the Community Livelihoods Initiative (CLI), will begin by training women to grow their own food crops and how to keep and breed poultry. All the necessary start-up provisions will be provided and the women will be taught about the importance of good nutrition, and how to preserve their food. Moreover, the women will be trained in the skills needed to use the produce they grow to create profitable and sustainable enterprises for themselves and their households.
CLI will in time offer these young women greater freedoms and better prospects, reducing their need to engage in risky practices such as transactional sex. CLI will run alongside an amazing project which has already been established, known as DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe). DREAMS is funded by USAID, the Gates Foundation and PEPFAR, and works to address the drivers which increase the risk of HIV, including poverty, gender-based sexual violence and low levels of education.
Together DREAMS and CLI, made possible by the amazing grant given by the Kathryn B. McQuade Foundation, will help to paint an improved picture for the future of these young women in Homa Bay County.
By intern, Ashley Preston, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.