Heshima Kenya’s feature in the American Jewish World Service’s policy brief Girls at the Center: Lessons from Kenya on Investing in a World Free of AIDS
Heshima Kenya is honored to be highlighted in the recent policy brief issued by the American Jewish World Service, an international development organization that funds and supports our organization in Nairobi. The report focuses on the unique risks adolescent girls face in Sub-Saharan Africa in regards to contracting and treating HIV/ AIDS. The paper demonstrates why girls’ empowerment must be prioritized as a key factor in worldwide efforts to respond to global HIV/AIDS, providing policy recommendations to remedy this and highlighting lessons from six emblematic organizations in Kenya that are proving the value of this approach.
Heshima Kenya is featured as one of these organizations; specifically as an outstanding organization that grants access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) resources while acknowledging and responding to a host of interrelated issues in the lives of young refugee women. This population of displaced refugees is especially susceptible to sexual exploitation and violence, and thus HIV/AIDS as well. Hehsima’s Safe House, holistic case management, and comprehensive HIV and SRH information and services, empower young disadvantaged women with the confidence and information to make a positive change in their lives and other women back in their communities.
Alice Eshuchi, a counselor at Heshima, recalls how one girl came to Heshima at 17 years old, traumatized because her baby looked like her father, who had raped her. At first, she was not emotionally equipped to focus on her HIV risk. But Heshima staff counseled her on how to emotionally heal from the rape, learn to love and care for her child and improve her mental and physical health. Once she was ready, they then integrated HIV and broader SRH information and health services into her care.
The report recommends that the U.S. Government, and specifically the Department of State, invest money and resources in efforts to educate young women in the Global South about their reproductive rights and employ a rights-based approach to engage governments in reforming and enforcing laws that protect girls from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and discrimination. Empowering young women has the potential to dramatically lower the HIV/AIDS rate of infection. Moreover, the report suggests that the U.S. should cultivate girl-centered and girl-led development programs, of which Heshima Kenya provides a striking example of what empowered girls are capable of accomplishing.
To view the full report: AJWS Policy Brief