Leveraging digital technology to build a healthier future for adolescent girls and young women

October 8, 2021
Girls play outside a DREAMS center in Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Brian Clark/Pact

In celebration of International Day of the Girl on October 11, the ACHIEVE consortium is excited to join the global community in recognizing the work that is being done to advance gender equality and empower adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) worldwide.

ACHIEVE (Adolescents and Children HIV Incidence Reduction, Empowerment and Virus Elimination) is a five-year, USAID-funded global health project that launched in 2019. Led by Pact with consortium members Jhpiego, Palladium, No Means No Worldwide and WI-HER, the project has reached nearly 40,000 AGYW through DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe) program activities in eight countries across Africa and the Caribbean. Given that AGYW are much more likely to be infected by HIV, we have scaled up our activities in places like South Sudan, Namibia, Rwanda and Tanzania through additional PEPFAR funding for the DREAMS partnership. Through our integrated programming, we have accomplished various aims, from implementing comprehensive case management projects serving vulnerable children in the Dominican Republic, Rwanda and South Sudan, to providing technical assistance and capacity development to local implementing partners in Burundi and Nigeria.

Amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, we were faced with unprecedented challenges that required us to incorporate innovative approaches in our programming to address an increase in needs among AGYW. In light of this year’s theme for International Day of the Girl, “Digital Generation. Our Generation,” we would like to share a few examples of how we have used digital technologies to secure a safer and healthier future for AGYW.

Amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, we were faced with unprecedented challenges that required us to incorporate innovative approaches in our programming to address an increase in needs among AGYW.

In the Dominican Republic, we strengthened our staff’s ability to identify cases of gender-based violence. This entailed delivering a webinar in partnership with the Attorney General’s Office to provide comprehensive care for survivors of abuse, as well as a webinar for community personnel on identifying and handling abuse cases. As a result, the team has helped families become more resilient in ensuring that abuse cases do not go undetected and that AGYW have access to mental health support and legal assistance, among other services.

In Namibia, our Jhpiego team has partnered with the World Health Organization to develop an innovative HIV prevention digital tool to support health care workers and PrEP users to easily access relevant, correct and updated information on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). The app provides key information and practical advice about the use of oral PrEP, with modules for clinicians, counselors, pharmacists, HIV testing providers and PrEP users to serve a wide population, including AGYW. The app is available through the Apple and Google Play stores in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Children in Huye, Rwanda, take part in an ACHIEVE school youth club, where they learn about sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence and HIV prevention. Credit: ACHIEVE

In Nigeria, we are working with No Means No to equip adolescent girls with the knowledge and skills to address and effectively respond to sexual violence. During Covid-19, we adapted in-person training workshops for 64 new instructors to a virtual platform to ensure uninterrupted service delivery. Now certified, the instructors will go on to educate boys and girls across six Nigerian states, with the aim of reaching nearly 75,000.

In South Sudan during Covid-19, we, along with Jhpiego and our technical partner, BRAC, have provided virtual trainings to DREAMS facilitators focused on empowering AGYW and equipping them with life skills education and economic strengthening support. To date, the cohort consists of 1,773 active DREAMS participants.

As we continue our efforts, we look forward to a day when AGYW can live a life free from gender-based violence, early and unwanted pregnancies and HIV. By putting the empowerment of AGYW at the heart of our efforts, while working with them to safeguard their health and wellbeing, together we will achieve a more just and better future that benefits all.