Her Voice Club Formed Following Focus Group Discussions with Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) on their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR)

Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) are faced with challenges particularly while engaging in relevant policy and program design processes that directly affect their lives. An example of this is absence and lack of meaningful engagement of adolescent girls and young women in national AGYW and youth related policy and program processes supported by or linked to the Global Fund. Gender inequalities limit the ability of young women to protect themselves from infection.

In 37 countries only 30% of young women had the knowledge to prevent HIV. Young women with HIV also face stigma and discrimination. To respond adequately to the needs of adolescent girls and young women, their voices and ideas must be heard. They must have the opportunity to shape policies and programs that affect them. This report presented is based on information gathered following consultative sessions through Focus Group Discussions with 48 AGYW in Cameroon to ensure their opinions and voices are captured to shape the decision making, implementation processes in the HIV/AIDS respond plans in Cameroon through the Global Fund.

        This report presents field consultation and analysis from this target group that represents their voices and opinions on a wide range of methods through which services like education can be provided to them. It provides a platform where we can ensure that they are able to seek and claim their rights to sexual health and HIV services. It highlights methods to contribute to the fight to end gender-based violence, a cause and consequence of HIV infections and proposes ways to create safe spaces for young women to become advocates and leaders in the HIV response and change harmful social norms to empower them.

The sessions that began with girls from 13 to 18 saw a lot of them having a lack of knowledge on HIV/AIDS. This was noticed because some of their answers to questions asked were incorrect and they were lacking on important knowledge about HIV/AIDS for example when it was coming to the difference between HIV and AIDS. A lot of them who were shy to speak at the beginning were able to start talking after a few minutes and we could watch their confidence grow and immediately after the session and our departure from the school a lot of them went on the internet to read more about HIV/AIDS and started following us on Facebook. The girls who participated at the Apostolic Comprehensive Secondary School have now began a club called Her Voice Club.

The AGYW who participated in the sessions out of the school campus had their sessions in outdoor environments, a choice made to create a space where they were comfortable and felt safe. The discussions created new friendships, exchange of life experiences and situations, knowledges and methods to engage them fully in the Global Fund processes. To be able to continue building on their capacities for their fully engagement in the Global Fund processes they proposed that a Whatsapp group should be created which was done of them and the Expert Trainers and the project team at DMF. A secret Facebook group was also to be created so that participants without Android Phones could be members. The team at DMF regularly shares workshop and consultative meeting opportunities at both the local, national and international levels, coach them in the application process so they can begin the engagement processes. Some are working closely with the team to build the article for the International Journal of Public Health so that they can be introduced to the processes and their capacities built.