My Future is My Choice (MFMC) - Namibia's Life Skills Programme through Peer Education
To counter the growing threat of HIV to young people in Namibia, "My Future is My Choice" was designed to reach young people, through young people, with sexual health information. It is part of a co-operation program between the Government of Namibia and UNICEF.
Young people between the ages of 14 and 21 years receive a 20-hour training course providing information and life skills they need to make choices about their future. Using a highly interactive approach, the program focuses on life skills training specifically for teen pregnancy reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention, substance abuse, and rape. Each MFMC graduate prepares a peer education "action plan" to reach at least 10 friends and/or become a member of an AIDS drama, role play, or debating club. Trained young people around the country are facilitating the 20-hour life skills education and, so far, have reached over 100,000 of their peers (75 per cent in-school-youth and 25 per cent out-of-school youth).
Background/Rationale for Project: HIV is a very serious threat to young people in Namibia. Namibia has HIV prevalence rates among adults 15 to 49 years of age of just under 20 per cent. This is a very serious problem for a country of only 1.7 million people. To counter this situation, MFMC was designed to reach young people, through young people, with sexual health information as well as strengthen young peoples' communication, negotiation and decision making skills so that they are able to make safe choices related to their sexual health and associated risk behaviours.
MFMC began in 1997 as a joint project between the Government of Namibia and UNICEF, entitled the Youth Health and Development Programme (YHDP). Project partners included the Ministries of Youth and Sports, Health and Social Services, Basic Education and Culture, National Youth Council, NGO's and religious organisations, such as the Catholic Church.
Description of Activities: Sessions are divided into different activities, including:
Question /Answer Session with UNICEF Project Officer Rick Olson:
How have adolescent boys and girls been involved in the project? In what stages have they been involved - situation assessment, situation analysis, planning, implementation, monitoring, and/or evaluation?
How has their involvement affected the project?
Without young people acting as volunteers, the programme would not be running as well as it is. Under each of the regional and sub-regional committees, it is young people who provide the day to day management and supervision of the life skills programme. It is young people who implement the training, distribute the materials and condoms, make arrangements with the schools for the programme to operate, make arrangements with the clinic to improve access, provide follow-up to the graduates and their AIDS Awareness clubs, etc. Young people, as peer educators, have been very successful in being able to discuss sensitive sexual health issues. Young people have the interest and the energy. They only require their capacity as peer educators and project managers/implementers to be developed.
How has their involvement affected themselves?
Changing sexual practices takes some time and collecting accurate data on sexual practices is not very easy. The longitudinal study conducted in 1996 indicated sustained risk reduction behaviours. From the new data collection tools, implemented in 1999, the majority of MFMC graduates (i.e. completed 20 hours of life skills training) have indicated in their "Action Plans" that they want to be peer educators and that they want to be active in HIV prevention in their communities. For young people who go through MFMC there is a positive change in attitude towards condom use and attitudes about sexual communication among peers and in relationships. Young people who are implementing and managing MFMC have learned new skills and have improved their existing skills in communication and activity management.
What have been the achievements of this project to date?
Has a formal evaluation been performed?
A 12-month longitudinal study was conducted in two regions comparing control and MFMC intervention groups. The 1999 programme introduced two evaluation tools, which are a pre and post-test for MFMC participants and a bi-annual attitude survey which is done at each intervention site (school and/or community). A sampling of this data from the 13 regions is currently being analysed.
What were the main constraints in meeting the project objectives?
Lessons Learned/Recommendations/What would you do differently if you could do it over?
What program support tools/resources were developed that can be used/adapted by other country offices?
A MFMC Training Guideline, The MFMC Facilitator Manuals, The MFMC Participants' Workbook, a MFMC Parents' Information Booklet, Project Management Working Notes for the YHDP Committees, and an AIDS Awareness Club Working Notes Manual.
Read a full interview with Project Officer Rick Olson about valuable lessons learned from MFMC.
For more information and sample curricula for MFMF, see "Technical and Policy Documents".
Assessing Communication around HIV Prevention, Right to Know Initiative. UNICEF-Namibia 2002.