FCI-Mali expands sexual health program for young people
In Mopti, a port city located along the Niger River in Mali, West Africa, many young people leave school at a young age. They take work in informal or casual jobs, as mechanics, salespeople, and maids. Once out of school, they have little or no access to reliable information on sexual and reproductive health, increasing their risk of HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy.
In 2009, in partnership with Interarts and the Association des Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs (AEJT), NGOs based in Spain and Mali respectively, FCI-Mali began addressing the pressing needs of these young people, expanding on a program first launched in Bamako, Mali’s capital. Based on the project’s initial success, a second phase was launched in October 2010, with financial support from the Spanish government’s Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID) and sponsorship by the regional governor and the national high council to fight HIV.
In November, FCI staff trained 15 girls and 15 boys as peer educators, building their understanding of sexual and reproductive health and their skills in communicating with their peers. An additional 16 peer educators, trained in the project’s first phase, also received a refresher session. In the weeks after their training, these peer educators organized hundreds of group meetings, home visits, and counseling sessions. They shared accurate, critically important information, distributed condoms, and reached more than 2,000 young people in Mopti. During December, FCI, our partners, and the peer educators mounted an awareness campaign in communities along the Niger River,sponsored by Mopti’s mayor, a strong project supporter. This effort reached another 2,300 youths in seven isolated villages, 200 of whom took advantage of voluntary HIV testing. During 2011, the 46 trained peer educators will continue to work with Mopti’s young people, while FCI-Mali and AEJT expand the program by reaching out to employers and religious leaders in order to build support for sexual health education.