Africare News In Brief

 

JSDF Recognizes Africare's Innovative WISE Program

WISE project beneficiaries

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, women have less access than men to adequate education and social sector resources, particularly for health. Not surprisingly, the rate of HIV-infected women has been rising at an alarming rate – especially for poor and at-risk women. HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) in Nigeria are also gender biased, as females are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior for monetary gain. Women also have limited access to HIV/AIDS and STI information and are less likely than men to seek testing and treatment.

In response to this situation, Africare created the Women’s Initiative for Sex Education and Economic Empowerment Project (WISE) to get to the heart of the issues faced by Nigerian women in the troubled Niger Delta Region in Akwa Ibom State.  The WISE Project, which ran from 2004-2010, worked to reduce the incidences of HIV/AIDS among young women. To do so, it built programs that cultivate healthy living through increased education and access to health care, and implemented economic empowerment initiatives.  The project targeted four categories of the most at-risk women and girls aged 15 to 35: out-of-school adolescents, street children, child brides, and sex workers.

Funded by the World Bank’s Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) and the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, WISE encompassed two main components: Reproductive Health & Risk Reduction and Vocational/Business Management Training. This two-tiered approach addressed the immediate health issues facing at-risk women and girls and prepared them for a life beyond HIV/AIDS. This innovative, highly participatory model drew upon support from local authorities, Community-Based Organizations (CBO), individual training partners, health facilities, and vocational training centers to provide services to target beneficiaries.

The project included advocacy, peer-to-peer mentoring and mobilization plans, and education focused on HIV/AIDS awareness, reproductive health, and safe sex practices. Health education manuals were distributed to help women become more aware of the human reproductive system, healthy life practices, and prevention methods to stop sexually-transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.  WISE also trained selected women as Peer Educators to act as positive role models in their communities, sharing their wisdom and experiences to build a network of support and encouragement. WISE also addressed the clear link between income level and the decision to engage in high risk behavior. Beneficiaries received training in entrepreneurial skills and business management to help them become financially independent and socially empowered to make informed decisions on issues of sexuality and reproductive health.

Africare is proud of its Nigeria team for being recognized by JSDF at its 10th anniversary event at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. The project was selected from over 300 JSDF-funded programs not only for its leadership on the global issue of HIV/AIDS, but also for its innovation, and commitment to ensuring that Nigerian women have a better and healthier quality of life.

 

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(Updated January 2011)