Evaluation of a savings & micro-credit program for vulnerable young women in Nairobi

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The last decade has witnessed increasing program and policy attentive on to the experience of adolescence n sub-Saharan Africa. Much of that interest stems from the fact that, in sub-Saharan Africa, young people aged 15 to 24 carry the burden of HIV infectons with half of all new infectons among this age group (UNAIDS, 2004, Bankole et al. 2004). Young women are particularly affected; in sub-Saharan Africa, girls aged 15 to 24 are more than three times as likely to be infected compared to ther male peers (UNAIDS/UNFPA/UNIFEM, 2004). However, most existing programs for youth target the unmarried and focus prevention efforts on educating on the risks of HIV and premarital sex, reducing risky premarital sexual behavior, and promoting a “just say no”-to-sex approach. What these efforts overlook s the context of sexual behavior, including conditions that may make adolescent girls and boys vulnerable to unprotected sex and HIV infection. In the 1998 Demographic and Health Survey for Kenya (KDHS), 21 percent of Kenyan girls reported that they had traded sex for money or gifts in the last year. Subsequently, a number of other studies have revealed the extent to wihch the sex that adolescents experience may result from force, threats, or coercion, including economic coericon (Lary et. al, 2004, Erulkar, 2004, Luke, 2003). These findings suggest that factors such as poverty and lack of financial resources and social isolation may contribute to risky sexual behavior, rather than simply lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS. As a result, the Populaton Council and K-Rep Development Agency developed and tested a model to reduce the economic vulnerability and increase the social connectedness of girls residing in low-income and slum areas of Nairobi. The model uses savings, group-based credit and adult mentors to reach young women with livelihoods and social support, as well as reproductive health information. Mentors’ activites included periodic organization of large seminars with invited guest speakers. Seminar topics were HIV/AIDS, prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), VCT, the role of nutrition n HIV management, drug and substance abuse, relationships, child rights and violence against women, vital regIstration and documentation, and business management.


Annabel S. Erulkar, Erica Chong

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