The essence of the project is to increase the voices of women and girls in the ongoing national and regional interventions to address HIV/AIDS. Women and girls are the most affected by the epidemic, and yet interventions do not address their specific needs. The existing interventions do not enable women and girls to protect themselves from infection, or to live positively with HIV. The underlying reason for the lack of lasting impact is the lack of active involvement of women and girls in the design of interventions and the debate that precedes them. Programs are made for them, not with them.
What we aim to achieve is the creation of a media environment that is supportive of women and girls and allows them to be part of the national debate on HIV/AIDS on their own terms. This means they themselves will have to have a say on what they want to discuss and how they want to be represented, including their representation in the media, creating a collaboration between women’s groups at a community level and the media.
The project is based on the principles of social change communication, and is in many ways a new way of working. As the community groups will be the guiding force of the project, the exact shape and content of the activities will depend on the needs and views of the women and girls involved.
The focus however will be on listening to women and girls, and enabling them to tell their stories, to identify which interventions they think would be effective to change the direction of the epidemic. Through increased access to and use of means of communication, including mass media, women and girls will gain more say in the formulation of HIV/AIDS policies and interventions at national, regional and local level.
It will be necessary to create an enabling environment for women and girls to discuss, produce and distribute and receive information on HIV/AIDS relevant to their own specific situation. The project works with women and girls in one district initially (Gulu) in Northern Uganda, and later spread to two districts (Apac and Soroti) with emphasis on the participation of women and girls who have been directly infected or affected by HIV. In addition we will work with the media and policy makers, to amplify their voices.
The duration of this initial phase of the project is one year. UMWA will manage the day-to-day project, and work with the communities on an ongoing basis to develop the communication packages to be disseminated through her media outlets, and carry out the advocacy with policymakers. UMWA will also be the focal point for the local, national, regional and international stakeholders, relevant organizations and interested partners.