Somalia – Women Peer Educators Program Against HIV/AIDS in Somalia
Author: Womens UN Report Network
Date: July 22, 2005
SOMALIA: Sisters Doing It For Themselves – HIV/AIDS Education
Women hold the meetings in places where they are comfortable,
NAIROBI, 1 Feb 2007 (IRIN/PLUSNEWS) – Somali women are taking the initiative in the
fight against AIDS with a programme to educate their peers in this conservative
An extensive consultative process, conducted by the
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), led to the development of a women’s
training manual in the local Somali language, which trained women use to reach
other women in their home towns.
“There is a low level of education
about HIV/AIDS among Somali women, therefore it is important to find a way to
pass on information in a way that they will understand and is appropriate to
them,” said Aisha Maulana, UNICEF Somalia’s HIV/AIDS technical advisor. “The
women who talk to them come from their community and understand their needs.”
The consultative process began in September 2005 and the programme was
introduced in northwestern Somalia’s self-declared republic of Somaliland in
September 2006, but the rollout, planned for December 2006 in south-central
Somalia, was delayed by ongoing insecurity in the region.
initially identified key issues placing women at greater risk of HIV, including
female genial mutilation, lack of education and poverty. The manual deals with
subjects such as sexually transmitted diseases and condom use – condoms are
becoming more available in Somalia, but there is very little information on how
to use them.
“The level of communication is really innovative … it is
less costly to deliver and only requires the women to attend for two hours a
week, so it takes less time away from the home,” Maulana said. “It is easy to
organise, as it only takes two women to take the information to the people.”
The women are trained to work in pairs, each teaching at least 20 people
over 20 sessions. “This allows them to feel free to talk, while respecting the
traditional values and norms; women are open to talk about sex, sexual rights,”
Maulana said. “They are not confined by the fact that a man is there.”
Using women to reach the wider female community was sensible in Somalia,
where insecurity often restricts freedom of movement. “The programme is running
well, although in south-central the mobility of the facilitators is limited, as
is bringing a large group of people together,” Maulana said.
UNICEF has trained 90 women, 30 from each of the country’s three regions –
Somaliland in the northwest, Puntland in the northeast, and south-central
Somalia. Sessions are also run in camps for internally displaced persons, where
an estimated 400,000 people are housed.
UNAIDS estimates Somalia’s HIV
prevalence at 0.9 percent, which is low by regional standards, but have warned
that once the rate exceeds one percent, it can double or triple in the space of
just two or three years.
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