Despite recent reductions in new HIV infections in eSwatini, the number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in the country remains high. The impact of HIV has disrupted and destabilized families and communal support systems, exacerbated by and contributing to widespread poverty. Economic insecurity has increased further in recent years due to climate-related shocks, including severe drought, leaving households ill equipped to care of OVC.
The goal of the Insika ya Kusasa (Insika) project is to prevent new HIV infections and reduce vulnerability among OVCs and adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in eSwatini, including those living with HIV. Making Cents International is supporting Pact to develop the capacity of AGYWs to increase their socioeconomic resilience. To this end, Making Cents is leveraging a proven capacity-building approach that consists of three sets of activities: 1) identifying viable economic opportunities, 2) developing AGYWs’ capacity to capitalize on these opportunities, and 3) building a supportive environment to enable their success.
Following initial assessments to ensure that tools and approaches developed for Insika are rooted in the reality of AGYWs’ lives, align with local market opportunities, and sync with Insika’s programmatic goals and structures, our experts facilitated a collaborative design workshop with the project staff and partners to discuss the findings and ideas for specific activities. The outcome of this process is a newly designed livelihoods development program for AGYWs that responds to their need for rapid engagement and learning and sustained support. For the program, Making Cents has developed a rapid, eight-week enterprising skill-building course that includes core soft skills and their application to livelihoods settings, along with key enterprising skills. The training includes a Business Challenge activity where AGYWs work in teams to apply their skills to a business for a day. This blending of skill building and skill application has been received enthusiastically and has proven especially engaging for AGYWs.
Over the summer, Making Cents worked with the Insika team to initiate the mentoring portion of the program. In this phase, AGYWs are engaging in three different activities. First, AGYWs will work with their business mentors for group-based and individual support as they apply their newly developed skills. Second, AGYWs will continue to meet as a larger group through Peer Mentoring meetings where they will provide encouragement and support to each other. Finally, AGYWs will work as a group to host a Community Business Expo where they will have a chance to invite their families, friends, and other community members to showcase the businesses they have established and their commitment to the program.