Youth Empowerment

Challenge: Africa’s youth are at a critical turning point.

Africa is young. Of the continent’s total population, more than 75% is under 35 years old, and young people there face profound challenges. The HIV & AIDS prevalence among Africans aged 15-24 is almost six times as high as the world rate. Many African youths are working, but most are employed informally or for low wages, keeping them stuck in a cycle of poverty. Without the right opportunities, these youth are vulnerable to involvement with drugs and crime.

Africare’s Solution: Youth can be powerful players in Africa’s transformation.

Encouraging Environments: In Burkina Faso, Africare’s Kick AIDS project used soccer to engage young people in HIV prevention education. By tackling difficult subjects on sports fields, the boys and girls found themselves in a fun environment with trusted friends and mentors, where they were comfortable discussing tough material. Trained coaches and teachers equipped with workbooks modeled on the innovative Sports For Life (SFL) behavior change curriculum provided young people with age-appropriate information on healthy relationships and HIV prevention, transmission and care. Ninety-eight physical education teachers and coaches as well as 760 trained peer educators reached 1,380 youths with the SFL curriculum through Africare’s Northern Region Kick AIDS soccer league. The youths improved their soccer
skills; embraced the sport’s values of teamwork, discipline and leadership; and learned how healthy behaviors can keep them safe as they enter adulthood.

Community Role Models: Since 2010, Africare’s Pamoja Tuwalee (“United Together”) project has empowered orphans and vulnerable children in three regions in Tanzania, ensured protection of their rights and increased their access to child-friendly reproductive health and HIV prevention services. Not only were young people the targets of the project, they were also the source of the project’s direction. Input from youths who have experienced the regional care services shaped the project’s design, and the project strengthens care systems by starting at the most important level: the household. Youth participation provides meaningful leadership to the project’s approach to a range of issues, from health care access to nutrition and gender-based violence. Through 2012, Pamoja Tuwalee had reached 40,422 children from 1,970 households with measures to strengthen their economic and social opportunities, and these children can pass along their new knowledge and confidence to their peers.