The Namibia Women’s Health Network (NWHN) work with women in each of Namibia’s 13 regions to provide information, education, skills, and capacity building to improve the health of Namibian women living with HIV and to empower them to become leaders at the local and national level. All of our program areas are built around a strategy to provide participants with:
- Accurate information on sexual reproductive health, prevention of mother to child transmission, cancer of the cervix etc.
- Information on where to access services in connection with gender based violence.
- Education for English literacy, a skill necessary for communicating with health workers.
- Skills to sensitize community members, policy makers, and traditional leaders on issues affecting women living with HIV.
- Skills for income generating activities for self sustenance and building confidence to negotiate on safer sex avoiding re/infection of STI’s, particularly HIV.
Since mid-June, NWHN has been providing English literacy lessons for two support groups for HIV-positive women in Havana and Okuryngava, Katutura. The groups meet once a week for two hours to converse in English, learn practical phrases, and practice reading and writing.
Many of the women have little experience with English and had described great difficulty in communicating with doctors and explained that they often answered “no” to every question they were asked by a health care workers simply because they could not understand. The literacy groups have attempted to address this problem by practicing common dialogues between doctors and patients, as well as providing translation sheets for group members to keep with them.
The groups have also focused on creating CVs so that they are able to seek employment in the formal sector. Being able to fill in applications and prepare CVs has helped to build the self-esteem of group members and give them the confidence to gain economic independence.
Namibia Women Health Network (NWHN) is currently helping HIV positive women who have been forcefully sterilized without their consent with the court cases.The court cases started on the 1st june to the 3rd june 2010 and it has been postponed to the first of september 2010.
Ipas facilitator, Loini Eliasar, and youth participating in the ICW-Ipas program have been recently involved in community outreach education through radio. KCR 106.2 Base FM, a local radio station in Katutura, Windhoek, has allotted a one-hour time slot to NWHN. In this time, an Ipas facilitator and two youth address a specific topic each Monday.
The purpose of these shows is to educate, advocate, and inform the audience about the reproductive health rights and any other issues affecting the nation. The talk shows are targeted primarily to teenagers and adults, but it is also emphasized that parents can (and should) partake in order to give participants advice and corrections where the group may go wrong.
Topics discussed thus far include “teenage pregnancy,” “overcoming alcohol,” and “trust and confidentiality.” There has been tremendous feedback regarding the show. According to Ms. Elisar,
“It was amazing that about five parents called in to motivate the show and expressed that it has always been difficult to talk to their teens about sensitive issues. On the other hand, teenagers also called in to say they are happy with the show and look forward to listening. As for me, it is so encouraging knowing that people are so keen to learn from my show.”
Through this show, radio has proven to be an effective tool to reach out to communities, young and old, and educate and advocate sexual and reproductive health and rights in Namibia. There are plans to extend this pilot community outreach project to other radio stations in the near future.