Making It Happen! Training young people to advocate for their sexual and reproductive health and rights

Making It Happen! Training young people to advocate for their sexual and reproductive health and rights

Making It Happen! Sexual and reproductive health and rightsMaking It Happen!  Training young people to advocate for their sexual and reproductive health and rights

I developed this advocacy training manual for dance4life, based on activities which they had developed. The manual is accompanied by handouts and a facilitators’ journal, and is also available in Spanish.

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Some changes just happen; the ground becomes wet because it is raining. But most changes come from someone; the idea to build a shelter to keep dry in the rain, then the work to build it. This training is about enabling young people to create change, to use their ideas and their voices effectively to influence others and to make things happen.

dance4life believes that advocacy is crucial if we are to achieve long term changes which benefit large numbers of young people and the wider community. The drive for those changes should come from young people themselves. They know best the issues they face and the changes that are needed. With support from relevant organisations young people are the best representatives of young people’s issues.

What is the purpose of this training manual?

It’s written to enable (advocacy) staff and facilitators of dance4life National Concept Owners (NCOs) to train young people in national lobby and advocacy. It’s a tool you can use to:

  • Strengthen the knowledge and capacity of young people through learning about advocacy.
  • Help young activists to figure out what they most want to change with regard to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
  • Give them meaningful involvement in refining, finalising and implementing your advocacy plans.

Creating a positive learning context

Remember how boring it can be, being taught? How the teacher’s voice goes on, and your mind wanders? Feeling frustrated there’s no chance to speak? Or feeling worried that you’ll get something ‘wrong’? This training should be NOTHING like that! It will be fun and creative and involve everyone, without fear and anxiety.

Your role is not to be the teacher or the expert! Instead you are a facilitator: someone who eases a process of learning and discovery. The methods in the training sessions help this to happen; they enable participants to figure out things for themselves, rather than being told. Your task is to create a positive context for their learning in the following ways:

  • Lead by example, with a positive approach, willingness to listen, and respectful behavior.
  • Give the sessions structure by following the training plan, explaining what to do, and keeping time.
  • Support groups to stick to the task they are doing, rather than go off the topic.
  • Be open to unexpected but important discussions and be flexible in adapting the plan, explaining changes as needed.
  • Manage how people interact, if necessary, so everyone has the opportunity to add their voice, and no one dominates.
  • Respond to any problems that arise, perhaps by asking the group what to do.
  • Provide everyone with a chance to give feedback about the training and to improve the process.
  • Praise participants for their efforts, and the virtues and leadership they have shown.
  • Use humour and a diplomatic approach to deal with conflicts within the group.

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Know Much More About HIV: Staying positive and healthy in the workplace

Know Much More About HIV

Know Much More About HIVKnow Much More About HIV: Staying positive and healthy in the workplace

SAfAIDS asked me to write a booklet for employees, as part of a toolkit to support workplace responses to HIV. I wanted to give readers more options and more detail than the usual HIV prevention messages, and so set out 26 ways in which individuals can reduce their risk of acquiring HIV.

The booklet also outlines the steps which individuals can take to create a supportive and healthier workplace, and is available in Portuguese.



What has HIV got to do with your workplace?

There are many different things which affect how well you and your colleagues work, and how productive your organisation is. Among those many factors, the impact of the HIV epidemic is likely to be significant. The effects of HIV in the workplace include:

  • If employees become infected with HIV and do not access treatment, then HIV will, in time, badly affect their health and productivity, leading to severe illness and their eventual death;
  • Increased staff absenteeism and higher staff turnover cause problems. These include stalled projects, missed targets, colleagues becoming overworked, managers spending too much time sorting out problems related to health issues, and lower morale in the workforce;
  • Staff costs tend to rise. This is due to higher medical costs, more funeral expenses and death benefits, and increased recruitment and training costs;
  • Efficiency is also undermined when staff are indirectly affected by HIV. For example, caring for sick relatives, or taking on responsibility for relatives’ children, takes time and causes stress.

However, we are not powerless against HIV. We can manage HIV in the workplace in three ways:

  1. Support staff and their family members to protect themselves from HIV infection
  2. Support staff (and sometimes their family members) who are HIV infected to maintain their health and their ability to work.
  3. By advocating for and creating a supportive working environment that implements its HIV policy and operates a wellness programme, with peer educators, educational awareness campaigns and programmes for staff.

What’s in this booklet?

Section 2 covers basic information on HIV transmission, progression to AIDS, and treatments for HIV and the opportunistic infections that arise from it. It may be a useful reminder for you, even though you already know a lot. You can use the information there to work out for yourself if a certain situation has potential for HIV transmission.

Section 3 deals with ways of preventing HIV transmission. This means both protecting yourself from getting infected, and stopping transmission of HIV to others.

Section 3.1 goes beyond the usual ABC of HIV prevention, and gives you 14 different options for reducing the chance of HIV transmission through sex! You may find new options there that you can use.

Section 3.2 concentrates on reducing HIV transmission from mother to child. It includes options for couples who want to get pregnant where one or both of them are infected with HIV.

Section 3.3 looks at ways of maintaining health and preventing opportunistic infections

Section 3.4 looks at ways of reducing HIV transmission through medical, cutting and injecting procedures. This section should also give you food for thought.

In Section 4 we move on to the more general topic of valuing our health. HIV is not the only threat we face, and there is a lot we can do to increase our chances of enjoying good health and productive lives.

Lastly, in Section 5 we set out the key ways in which we can create a supportive workplace for the benefit of all staff.

A Different Way: Young women, their sexual orientations and their sexual rights

Sexual Orientation and sexual rights

A different way - International Programme on SexualityA Different Way: Young women, their sexual orientations and their sexual rights

Rutgers WPF asked gay and straight young people from around the world about what information would help girls and young women who have questions about their sexual orientation.  I used their ideas and queries to write A Different Way, which was also translated into French as Vivre Sa Difference.



All around the world, people’s ideas of sex, love and marriage focus on men and women. But this is not the whole story! There are different ways to be, including relationships between women, and relationships between men. But there is not much information available to help young women find their way.

We have written this booklet for young women who:

  • may be feeling different;
  • want to know more;
  • have questions about their sexuality;
  • and want to do what is best for themselves.

We want to give young women information about different sexual orientations. We hope it will help them to understand the issues better, and to make good choices, particularly if they are feeling unsure. This booklet should also be useful for people who work with young women, such as teachers and health workers.

Our values

We believe in human rights. They are things which everyone should have. Among them are sexual rights. Everyone should be able to choose their sexual partner, to decide whether or not to have sex, and be free to try and have a satisfying and safe sexual life.

Too often these sexual rights are abused. For example, young women are forced or pressurised into having sex, or required to marry a certain man. The situation is usually worse for women who are attracted to other women.

Sometimes information can help. In many cultures young people get a confusing mix of messages from films, magazines, friends, family members, and religious leaders. Some of this information is incorrect. Some of it is used to try and control them. Many adults think telling young people information about sex will lead to them having sex. This is not true! Many studies have shown that getting information about sex and healthy relationships helps young people to make better decisions.

What’s in this booklet

Chapter 2 is about sex and healthy relationships. It should be useful to all young women.

Chapter 3 explains what gender identity is, and outlines the different kinds of attraction or sexual orientation that are normal for humans.

Chapter 4 has a lot of questions and answers about women who are attracted to other women. They should be interesting to young people in general, and particularly to young women who are trying to figure out their sexual orientation.

Break Another Silence: Understanding Sexual Minorities and Taking Action for Sexual Rights in Africa

understanding sexual minorities in Africa

Sexual Minorities and rights in AfricaBreak Another Silence: Understanding Sexual Minorities and Taking Action for Sexual Rights in Africa

This booklet is about marginalised sexualities and human rights and is also available in French.

In a context of widespread homophobia and misinformation, it aims to give Oxfam’s and other NGOs’ staff both facts and food for thought about alternative sexualities.  It’s written for people working in civil society and government organisations, with a focus on Africa, particularly the Horn, East, and Central Africa.



The idea for this booklet came from an HIV and AIDS forum, held in the Horn, East & Central Africa region, for Civil Society Organisation (CSO) staff working on HIV. The forum focussed on learning about linkages between gender, HIV & AIDS, and sexual rights. Two East African activists from a sexual minorities network spoke about how badly sexual minorities are treated, the violence and discrimination they experience, and the difficulties they face in accessing HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment & care services. Their testimonials stirred the participants’ interest. Some felt that they needed to know more. Many were surprised; they were working on HIV, and yet had not given much thought to sexual minorities. Some, perhaps, felt negative towards the two activists, a common reaction in African cultural settings. Others wondered how they and their organisations might support sexual minorities to claim their rights.

This booklet is to encourage staff in civil society and government organisations to: understand sexual rights as human rights; to become aware of the ongoing abuses of sexual minorities’ human rights including lack of access to essential services; and to take action to protect rights for all, including minority groups.

Chapter 1 focuses on basic information and key debates. Chapter 2 looks at reactions to sexual minorities and their sexual rights. The linkage between sexual minorities, human rights and HIV programming is explored in Chapter 3, while Chapter 4 deals with why most NGOs have been silent on the issue. The concluding chapter suggests ways to break that silence.

Briser un Autre Silence: Comprendre les minorités sexuelles et mener des actions en défense de leurs droits sexuels en Afrique

Sexualité, homosexualité

Sexualité, homosexualité Briser un Autre Silence: Comprendre les minorités sexuelles et mener des actions en défense de leurs droits sexuels en Afrique

Cette brochure traite des sexualités marginalisées et des droits de l’homme et a été écrite en anglais.

Dans le contexte de l’homophobie généralisée et de la désinformation, il vise à donner au personnel d’Oxfam et d’autres ONG à la fois des faits et des éléments de réflexion sur les sexualités alternatives. Il est écrit pour les personnes travaillant dans la société civile et les organisations gouvernementales, en mettant l’accent sur l’Afrique, en particulier la Corne, l’Afrique de l’Est et l’Afrique centrale.

(The French translation of Break Another Silence)



L’idée à l’origine de ce livret est venue d’un forum sur le VIH et le SIDA tenu dans la région de la Corne, l’Est et le Centre de l’Afrique à l’intention du personnel des Organisations de la Société Civile (OSC) travaillant sur le VIH. Le forum portait sur l’apprentissage au sujet des liens existant entre : Genre, VIH, SIDA et droits sexuels. Deux activistes est-africains provenant d’un réseau de minorités sexuelles se sont exprimés au sujet de la manière dont les minorités sexuelles sont maltraitées. Ils ont parlé de la violence et de la discrimination que ces minorités subissent et des difficultés auxquelles elles font face pour accéder aux services de prévention du VIH et du SIDA, de traitement et de prise en charge. Leurs témoignages ont suscité l’intérêt des participants. Certains ont eu le sentiment qu’ils avaient besoin d’apprendre davantage. Certains d’entre eux étaient étonnés ; ils travaillaient sur le SIDA mais, hélas, ils n’avaient pas beaucoup pensé aux minorités sexuelles. Certains, peut-être, ont eu le sentiment de désapprouver les deux activistes; une réaction considérée comme ordinaire dans un contexte culturel africain. D’autres se demandaient comment eux-mêmes et leurs organisations pourraient aider les minorités sexuelles à revendiquer leurs droits.

Ce livret est destiné à encourager le personnel des organisations gouvernementales et de la société civile à : Comprendre les droits sexuels comme des droits humains ; Prendre conscience de l’abus des droits humains dont sont victimes au quotidien les minorités sexuelles, dont le manque d’accès aux services essentiels ; et entreprendre une action pour protéger les droits de tous, y compris pour les groupes minoritaires.

Le premier chapitre porte sur une information de base et sur les grands sujets de débats. Le chapitre 2 analyse les réactions courantes face aux minorités sexuelles et à leurs droits sexuels. Le lien entre minorités sexuelles, droits humains et programmation sur le VIH est explorée dans le chapitre 3, pendant que le chapitre 4 traite de la manière dont la plupart des ONG sont restées silencieuses sur la question. Le chapitre de conclusion suggère des voies de sortie pour briser ce silence.

Failing Women, Withholding Protection

HIV prevention with female condom

female condom to prevent HIV15 lost years in making the female condom accessible.

Oxfam Novib has been one of few organisations in the world investing in allowing the female condom to serve its purpose. I was fortunate to have the job of researching and writing this briefing paper for them.

They and the World Population Fund used it in their advocacy push at the 2008 International AIDS Conference. Find out more about their Universal Access to Female Condoms campaign here.



2008 marks 15 years since the female condom was invented, and, disgracefully, 15 years of failing to make them accessible to the women who need them. Despite the absence of any other female-initated form of protection, and unprecedented rises in funding for the response to HIV, female condoms remain inaccessible, and their contribution remains untapped.

The urgent need for access to female condoms is evident in the feminisation of the HIV pandemic, the large unmet need for contraception, and the pitiful progress towards meeting Millennium Development Goals 5 and 6 on maternal health and halting and reversing the spread of HIV.

Why provide female condoms, when male condoms are readily available, much cheaper, and provide a comparable level of protection?

  • Female condoms are a tool to assist women’s empowerment. Women who use female condoms report an increased sense of power for negotiation of safer sex, and a greater sense of control and safety during sex. It will be many years until women have any alternative femaleinitiated means of protecting themselves.
  • Providing both female and male condoms leads to more instances of protected sex and reductions in the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Their additive effect, providing protection in instances which would not be protected by male condoms, makes them a costeffective form of HIV prevention.

Studies have repeatedly shown high levels of acceptability for female condoms. Some users prefer them over male condoms, as they offer more flexibility regarding the timing of putting them on and taking them off, and have a more natural feel. However, many donors and policy-makers remain sceptical that sufficient demand for them exists. Yet examination of femalecondom projects reveals significant demand, even though it is often deliberately suppressed and unintentionally undermined by stigmatisation and running out of stock. What is perceived as an issue of demand is actually one of supply. Expanding access to female condoms is held up not at the users’ end, but at the start of the chain: how much money donors and governments are willing to invest in buying female condoms, supporting female-condom programmes, and developing low-cost female condoms.

What is behind the failure to act comprehensively to create access to female condoms? Responses from donors and policy-makers to the female condom mirror the common reasons for not using a male condom: responses formed by ignorance, culture, denial, ‘poverty’, and conservatism. Added to this are overarching errors of a lack of leadership, a huge funding bias against existing forms of primary HIV prevention, failure to scale up programming, and failure to invest in strategies to lower the cost of female condoms.

Of course, some efforts have been been made in the past 15 years, which have accelerated since the launch of the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) global Female Condom Initiative in 2005. The rapid expansion of sales and free distribution in the few countries at the forefront of female condom programming demonstrates the massive unmet demand for female condoms. But there is so much more to be done. Worldwide, in 2007, roughly 423 male condoms were produced for just one female condom. Female condoms currently have a unit cost about 18 times higher than male condoms.

The levels of investment and programming needed to increase the choice of available female condoms, to lower prices and to expand production are highly feasible. Through collaborative action, donors, governments, civil society organisations and the private sector can begin the progress of achieving universal access to female condoms. Female condoms exist now, and concerted efforts to make them accessible must begin now.