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Global Health

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HIV, Gender Based Violence Prevention & Leadership posted by Brigitte Perreault

South Africa has made remarkable progress in the two decades following the end of apartheid and the successful first democratic elections in 1994. Its Constitution is now heralded as one of the most progressive in the world and its GDP is second on the continent only to that of Nigeria, a country with over three times the population. Despite these advancements, South Africans face significant challenges. Unemployment is high – approximately 40% of black South Africans are without jobs. Its HIV burden continues to be staggering: despite having less than 1% of the world’s population, South Africa has 18% of the world’s people living with HIV—6.1 million, the highest number of any country in the world. Women are disproportionally affected, comprising 56% of HIV infections. In addition, South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of rape and other types of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV). With initial funding from the MAC AIDS Fund, the UCLA Center for World Health, together with Columbia University, developed an intensive training program to enhance the capacity of the next generation of South African leaders to reduce the incidence and impact of HIV which deeply affects the health and wellbeing of women and families in the country. Partnering with South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), UCLA’s Center for World Health further refined this program into a yearlong fellowship that combined key aspects of HIV prevention, leadership skills, and gender equality. The goals of this fellowship program include expanding fellows’ knowledge of the drivers, impacts, and intersections of HIV and GBV; developing leadership skills that are relevant to the context and national goals; developing skills for gender empowerment and advocacy; and building skills needed to conceptualize, design, and implement effective, feasible HIV and GBV prevention plans, as well as how to sustain such programs.

Under the direction of Thomas J. Coates and Laurie Bruns, the Center for World Health worked with its partners to create a comprehensive curriculum that would provide fellows with the knowledge and skills required to create effective HIV and GBV programs in their communities, as well as to become leaders highly sought after by the academic, non profit, and business sectors in South Africa. Over the past eight years, the program has successfully trained and graduated over 90 fellows. The unique success of this program, with has achieved an over 95% completion rate for fellows, lies in the top-level instruction delivered by expert lecturers, the up-to-date evidence-based information on HIV and gender inequality and GBV, and the unique, individualized support provided by dedicated mentors who give regular guidance and support throughout the fellowship and indeed, beyond the program’s one-year duration. As a result, many of the fellows voluntarily continue with their community-based projects well beyond the duration of the fellowship. An independent evaluation of the program found that its unique integration of HIV prevention, gender, and leadership fills a critical gap in South Africa for skills and capacity development among young people who show strong potential for leadership, but who lack access to the levels of education, training, and support which would enable them to reach their potential. While the foundation of the fellowship program focused around HIV and GBV prevention and leadership development, the most prominent outcome was its transformative nature. Unlike many programs that merely provide training, this fellowship program focuses on building people. We believe this is achieved through one-on-one support provided both during skills building and throughout practical implementation of the skills acquired. Fellows have reported that this not only enhances their effectiveness professionally, but also on their personal growth. Our fellows exit the program more prepared, confident, and assertive often times seeking and obtaining better employment opportunities, promotions, and higher degrees.
Comments from program graduates: “I now trust my judgment and take decisions without the fear of failure or being wrong but with the hope of being directed and supported. This [my self confidence] was always disturbed by an inferiority complex and the failure of seeing myself as a leader but through training I learnt to acknowledge the fact that I am a leader.”
– SM, Gauteng
“No program shouldn’t be like this. You guys are constantly there…if you need a poster child for this project, I am proof that the impossible is possible.”
– NM, Northern Cape


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