ATHENA is a global policy partner in the Link Up project - a five country project which aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more than one million young people living with and affected by HIV in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda. We are working with partners and young women focal points in these five countries to ensure that the rights and voices of young women from key populations are heard in national, regional and global advocacy processes.
As part of Link Up, consortium members Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) and the ATHENA Network led a consultation with young people living with and affected by HIV. Nearly 800 people from every region of the world responded to a global online survey that collected quantitative and qualitative data in five languages, and over 400 young people participated in a series of community dialogues and focus groups with national partners in Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
You can read the global consultation report or summary papers for Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda.
Step Up, Link Up, Speak Up
Emerging from the Voices, Visions and Priorities consultation, ATHENA has worked in partnership with GYCA and Link Up implementing partners, to strengthen, enhance and amplify young people's engagement in advocacy and policy processes. With support from GYCA and the IHAA, ATHENA and country partners in Uganda and Myanmar led the development of Step Up, Link Up, Speak Up: A Mentoring Tool and Workshop Facilitator’s Guide for youth mentoring programmes, and trialed the tools in two workshops with LInk Up youth advocates.
Pilot workshops in Kampala and Yangon
30 young people in Kampala and 28 young people in Yangon representing people living with HIV, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and trans* communities, people who use drugs and other vulnerable young people took part in two pilot workshops to trial the Mentoring Tool and Workshop Facilitator's Guide, and their feedback shaped the accompanying workshop Powerpoint presentation, which can be downloaded as a resource.
“Being involved in the mentoring workshop created a foundation for me as a young advocate. First of all l went as a mentee and came out as a mentor which created a big impact in my life cause now l can advocate for my rights in my community. Through mentoring workshop am now able to mentor others, l learnt how to come up with work plan including goals which are easy to achieve. I was able to understand and differentiate between advocacy and mentorship. I got friends through the workshop hence enabled me to share different ideas with them hence l gained knowledge. Through mentoring workshop guidelines and ideas I am able to mentor people - mostly young key population in my community. Thanks to ATHENA and Jacqui Stevenson.” – Kampala workshop participant, Mariam
The purpose of implementing such a mentoring programme is both to build the confidence of young people; to help identify and expand their knowledge, leadership skills, and abilities; and to create a system of sustainability within youth organizations. Mentoring catalyzes a 'multiplier effect' among advocates -- which is especially important among youth advocates as they 'age out' of the youth movement and move into mainstream advocacy.
Aiming High for Meaningful Youth Engagement
The Step Up, Link Up, Speak Up mentoring tools form part of a range of strategies trialed and embedded during the course of the Link Up project to model a good practice package of meaningful youth engagement. Based on principles and recommendations surfaced by Link Up youth advocates, Aiming High provides practical guidance for shifting the position of young people in the HIV response from being service recipients, to becoming leaders, researchers, advocates, mentors, implementers, educators and providers -- in other words to support young people to be the change they want to see.
The briefing paper, available in English and French, is accompanied by an Aiming High Scorecard (also available in French) which can be used by young people and other stakeholders to assess how well programmes and organizations are implementing meaningful youth engagement, based on Link Up's Top Ten Strategies.
A film, Aiming High: Meaningful youth engagement was launched at the International AIDS Conference in July, and features youth advocates from each Link Up country talking about their experiences and achievements over the course of the Link Up project. Together with the Aiming High scorecard, it demonstrates how to involve and engage young people as partners and leaders in their work in future. The film is available in English and French.