Hi all - It’s Sarah with some news from the Shingiro Youth project!
Wednesday July 11th Natasha, Emily, and I were able to speak with some of the 50 youth group members in Shingiro who came together in 2010 to teach and spread HIV/AIDS awareness to their fellow youth. They came together with help and support from the HIV+ adult cooperative in community called Icyiringiro, meaning hope. In addition to their HIV education work, this youth group chose to use their grant money to implement a sheep-rearing project, in an effort to increase their crop yields to reduce food insecurity and to generate additional income. Since receiving the sheep, the youth group members have been able to use their sheep’s manure to fertilize their fields, and some have even been able to sell some manure and use the extra income to pay school fees and health insurance.
After receiving four days of training and education about HIV/AIDS prevention as part of their microgrant, the youth wanted to spread their knowledge to other young adults in their community. They have held meetings and provided counseling for their fellow peers to educate and make them aware of the risks of unprotected sex. This group has also encouraged many people to go to the local clinic to get tested.
HIV/AIDS education among youth is a huge step towards reducing the number of HIV+ men and women in Rwanda. As UNAIDS reported, “Young people are at the center of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Their behavior, the extent to which their rights are protected, and the services and information they receive can help determine the quality of life of millions of people.”
This group is a great example of youth empowering other youth to get tested for HIV/AIDS, practice safe sex, and to spread their knowledge.
One member of the Shingiro youth group, Niyigena Garet, told an amazing story about how much being part of the youth group has helped her learn the skills to teach her peers the behavior changes needed to avoid HIV/AIDS. She was also able to “mobilize [her] entire family to be tested.”
“It is young people who offer the greatest hope for changing the course of the epidemic.”
— Children and Young People in a World of AIDS (UNAIDS, 2001b)
Not only has this group been able to teach other youth about the dangers of HIV, but it has also helped many overcome the HIV/AIDS stigma in their community. Before coming together, members of the group said that they looked down on HIV+ people. As one group member Mugjawimaha said, “when I saw someone HIV+, I felt they were no longer a human being.” After learning more about HIV, this group has shown incredible strength and leadership to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS and the stigma cast against HIV+ people in their community!
It is amazing to see the progress this group has made!