Empowered AGYW: The Successful YEAH Project
The recently concluded YEAH Project celebrated a momentous graduation ceremony, marking the achievements of 19 tailoring scholars, 15 jewellery makers, and 40 empowered peer educators. This initiative, led by PHAU (Public Health Ambassadors Uganda) in collaboration with YIMBA, Ajuna African Style, and Naguru Teenage Health & Info Centre, aimed to address the high HIV incidence rate among Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) in Uganda. With support from AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) as the project’s donor and PHAU as the implementer, the YEAH Project tackled the pressing needs of AGYW in three crucial areas. PHAU believes in raining a generation of empowered AGYW.
Firstly, the project aimed to combat limited access to up-to-date integrated HIV/AIDS information and youth-friendly services, ensuring AGYW could make informed decisions about their sexual health and well-being. Secondly, economic vulnerability resulting from inadequate empowerment and skill-building programs was addressed, focusing on equipping AGYW with essential skills to alleviate poverty. Finally, the project aimed to provide AGYW with limited access to mentorship, leadership, and advocacy skills programs, empowering them to voice their concerns within their communities.
The Youth Empowerment and Advocacy Hub (YEAH) served as an information and resource centre for young people aged 15 to 30. It offered training and mentorship programs to help young individuals acquire skills and knowledge. Additionally, YEAH became a platform for AGYW to access comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education, fostering peer-to-peer support. Topics covered included HIV/AIDS, STDs and STIs, family planning, gender-based violence, and menstrual health and hygiene management.
The YEAH program focused on four core modules to promote social and economic empowerment:
1. Vocational Skills Building: Traditional and modern skills training, encompassing jewellery making, beading, soap making, ICT and STEM, and pad making.
2. Comprehensive SRHR Education and Peer-to-Peer Support: In-depth education on HIV/AIDS, STDs and STIs, family planning, rights and protection, and access to services. It also addressed Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management (MHHM) and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH).
3. Leadership, Mentorship, and Advocacy: Developing governance, resilience, and soft skills such as self-efficacy, self-esteem, communication, problem-solving, and goal-setting.
4. Entrepreneurship, Financial Literacy, and Business Management: Equipping participants with numeracy skills, financial literacy, budgeting, and knowledge on accessing credit and financial institutions.
Through partnerships with industry and training institutions, PHAU ensured the customization of programs to create employment opportunities and align with Uganda’s market needs and job trends. Peer education played a vital role in the YEAH program, training youth as peer educators and champions in HIV/AIDS, MHM, family planning, SGBV, and ICT for health. These empowered peer educators conducted one-on-one health sensitization within their communities and identified peers for future cohorts, fostering a ripple effect of knowledge dissemination.
The YEAH Center not only served as a hub for education and skills development but also provided space for nurturing young people’s talents in spoken word poetry, theatre, creative dance, drama, aerobics, and music, enabling HIV/AIDS advocacy among local and religious leaders and policymakers. Targeted support services were also offered to enhance the performance and growth of youth-owned initiatives and ventures, ensuring sustainability beyond the program.
The YEAH Project has been a transformative force, enabling AGYW to become empowered advocates, leaders, and change-makers in their communities. By addressing their comprehensive needs, the project has made significant strides in reducing HIV incidence rates, fostering economic independence
Here is the event day in photos….