DREAMS Innovation Challenge Fund Recipients Announced

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Monday 18 July, 2016

We'd like to congratulate the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Fund selected grantees, and we're thrilled to announce that we have been provisionally awarded a grant to implement “Young Women Lead, Evidence, Advocate, Research, Network (LEARN): What does PrEP mean for young women?". Young Women LEARN combines participatory action research with leadership methodologies to inform and enhance the roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) by, with and for adolescent girls and young women in their diversity in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

Working with the International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) in Uganda, Access Chapter 2 in South Africa, and PIPE in Kenya, ATHENA’s LEARN project will enable a cadre of HIV prevention ambassadors among adolescent girls and young women most impacted by HIV to:

  • define their priorities, set agendas and lead research
  • gather meaningful data in safe, learning environment
  • contribute to the formal evidence base around HIV prevention science
  • advocate for prevention programming reflecting adolescent girls and young women’s lived realities, values and preferences

Whilst the efficacy of PrEP is established, the global evidence base around adolescent girls’ and young women’s knowledge and preferences regarding PrEP is still slim, at best. Adherence challenges, and failure to adequately account for adolescent girls’ and young women’s priorities and needs during trials – indeed at all stages of the research continuum – point to unanswered questions.

Structural factors increasing vulnerability to HIV include gender norms and traditional practices which impede adolescent girls’ and young women’s ability to claim and realize their rights and enjoy their health. Gender based violence, poverty, and low levels of education -- all symptoms of gender inequality – are just some of the barriers adolescent girls and young women must overcome in seeking access to health information and services.

LEARN is designed to generate research, leadership and advocacy, as well as community mobilization outcomes, which mutually reinforce each other and serve to address structural drivers as well as immediate knowledge and service gaps. LEARN builds on ATHENA’s Young Women’s Leadership Initiative, developed over the last 5 years. Our work has shown that a small number of closely mentored and supported young women, able to reach into the ‘sub-conscious’ of their communities, and supported to bring deep knowledge and understanding to the attention of decision-makers and influencers, can spark profound transformation.

While we welcome the announcements made today, we call for more investment in young women’s leadership and women-led civil society; young women-led research; young women’s meaningful involvement in robust monitoring of political commitments to women, girls and gender equality; and accountability to adolescent girls and young women in all of their diversity.

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