In July, with the COVID emergency support from one of our donor the seven groups of rural women we work with this year carried out last training production on powder soap to improve and maintain good hygienic practices and also generate income from the sales of the end products amidst the pandemic.
Also, additional farming seeds of cabbage and carrot were bought for 2 AYA groups to increase their agricultural yields. In regards to economic empowerment of the groups, a loan of 100,000FCFA at a lowest interest rate was given to a group member as a start-up capital for her petty trading in the community. This initiative by AYA aimed at enhancing the economic growth of its group members thus securing their financial autonomy.
AYA also celebrated World Population Day to raise awareness on issues such as family planning, gender equality, child marriage, rights of health, baby’s health etc. while calling on leaders, policymakers, institutions, and grassroots stakeholders to make reproductive health and rights accessible to all during the pandemic.
In August, group assessment was done in all groups to identify the coping strategy used in activities implementation during the pandemic while highlighting the challenges faced. The activity helped to evaluate their level of member engagements in order to re-launch the project activities. Although most activities had been suspended, they were still able to meet to carry out other activities such as small revolving financial schemes and do work on their farms/gardens.
The first harvest of cabbages and carrots was carried out while the second phase of cultivation of cabbage and carrots also kick started for harvest in the dry season.
In this year celebration of international youth day 2020 under the theme “Youth Engagement for Global Action”, AYA used the platform to celebrate our community volunteers who are relentlessly supporting women and girls in rural communities with trainings on income generation, menstrual hygiene management, skills development, SRHR and advocating for their rights
Though there was a call for lockdown in the entire region due to socio-political ongoing, September was a very proactive month. All 7 groups where a total of 99 women/girls was reached out to, they had various activities carried out which included educative talks in one group on basic accounting principles, to enable them understand the importance of recording financial transactions in systematic manner for effective finance management. They were handed a loan to invest as they prepared to kick start their cooperative at the end of the project implementation.
Meanwhile, the first yields of corn and cocoyam was harvested in one of the women’s group, which the proceeds were sold for income generation. They also started planting beans which was due to be harvested in the dry season harvest. In two of the groups, they were able to identify the challenges faced by women in crisis communities such rape, lack of food/medication, unstable shelter or lack of for some, scarcity of menstrual hygiene products/services. At the end, they were urge to serve as peace advocates both within their families and communities.
The African Youth Alliance’ girls group held discussion sessions on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) with emphasis laid on maintaining good hygiene best practices like bathing, keeping their sexual organs and carefully disposing of used pads. The community nurse also educated two women’s group, on basic tips of MHM, the full meaning of HIV/AIDS, it signs/symptoms, the different modes of transmission and how the disease could be prevented.
October had several activities implementation after the call for lockdown from April to June due to the health pandemic. To commence activities, in all 7 groups reusable sanitary pads were distributed to the members during MHM sessions with the nurse reaching out to a total of 244 women and girls.
Specific activities carried out were;
- In the girl’s group, they held discussions centered on early marriage, the different forms of child marriage, it disadvantages as well as the complications of teenage pregnancy. They were strongly discourage not to adhere to such practices which is a big setback for their growth both mentally, physically, emotional and pyschosocial.
- Two of our women’s group were educated on how to fight stigmatisation within their conflicted communities because it could affect the mental health of a person through fear and anxiety. They were given tips on how to fight stigma in order to reduce the number of people who suffer from mental illness to enable healthy wellbeing amongst community members.
- The community nurse held health sessions with two women’s groups on STIs and Family planning. They were provided with deep insights on the various topics to improve their knowledge to enable them take good care of themselves.
- From the loan scheme, one of women’s group starting their local farmer’s shop and were selling farming products like insecticides, seedlings, basic items etc to members of their community and the profit made so far had been given to 6 members as an individual loan which they have all paid back.
- With the technical support from an agricultural technician, a propagator was constructed to enhance the germination of fruit trees and agro-forestry trees in one of our women’s group. This activity help to mitigate the effect of climate change and the yields were sold for income generation
For the International Day of the Girl Child and Day of Rural Women 2020, AYA added her voice to advocate for a better world for adolescent girls and applaud the critical role and contributions of rural women groups in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
The group members had different community commitments in November such church conferences, funeral celebrations etc, but nonetheless all planned activities were successfully implemented.
- Two of our women’s group were drilled on the important role played by women in peace building process though they are faced with various forms of GBV such as rape, sexual assault, violence, fear, cultural pressures, and lack of resources. Knowledge gain at the end, encouraged them to build good communication skills and network to be able to add their voices in peace building when the need arise.
- Meanwhile the community nurse held health education on personal hygiene practices, gender equality and MHM in two women groups. Lesson learnt empowered them to fight for their rights and also against biased customary norms and traditions. They also understood how to better manage their menstrual hygiene before and during their periods which permitted them to carry on with their daily routine without disruptions due to limited menstrual knowledge and poor management of their reusable pads.
- A new training on marcotting was carried out with another women’s group which made it possible for them to learn how a plant could reproduce the exact characteristics of it mother plant while rooted in a different stem. The activity thought them how to produce best tree which could yield heavily, big and tasteful fruits in the shortest time frame possible.
- In the girls group, the nurse educated them on the full meaning of the STIs, the different kinds of STIs, the various ways of transmission of STIs and HIV/AIDS and finally on their different means of prevention.
- With the effective running of their cooperative, discussion sessions on market strategy, branding of their products, setting a fix but moderate price range as well as advertising their products was held in one of our groups. The members learnt a lot from all the information shared while all the skills gain was used to facilitate the management of the cooperative activities for sustainability.
All 7 groups also participated in the 16 days activism campaign on GBV to amplify the fight against violence of any form toward women and girls which had witness a rise during the ongoing crisis as well as the global health pandemic. For the statistics a total 202 women and girls were reached to in all 7 groups during this month activities implementation
In December, to commemorate World AIDS Day 2020 under the theme “Global solidarity, shared responsibility”; AYA was able add her voice and show support to people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS-related illness amidst COVID-19 pandemic. Also the 16 days activism campaign was rounded up in all 7 groups, through which discussion sessions on GBV were held in all groups. The sessions equipped them with knowledge through information sharing and projection of educative messages on cardboards to educate members for them to fight against GBV in the community.
The final activity implemented for the year was the organization of a networking workshop for all 7 groups for them to share their experience, knowledge gain, lessons learnt and challenges under the 5 different projects target area. The workshop had a total of 262 women, girls, stakeholders and community volunteers who attended the event. With the use of dramas, songs, demonstration of crop harvest, health talks and experience sharing, members highlighted how the implementation of the 5 projects had empower them and also act as a mean of sustainability for their groups activities.
- The group members were satisfaction and continuous to highly appreciation AYA initiative to assist them despite all odds, as they promised to get involve and proactive in all the project activities despite the outbreak of corona virus.
- Transportation fare increase during the pandemic causing field staffs and volunteer to trek for long distances in order to carry out activities implementation.
- They also witness scarcity of sensitization resources on COVID-19 though members were briefed on the preventing measures such as frequent washing of hands with soap and water, no shaking of hands, maintaining of social distance at least 1 meter away from each other and the use of hand sanitizer (disinfectant).
- One of our groups was unable to nurse and transplant it carrot and cabbage seeds due to the poor nature of the soil thus there was no harvest for them after all farm work, inputs and labour put in place.
- During the brainstorming at network workshop, some of the challenges faced by them that was highlighted included little or no education opportunities, lack of capital to start up small businesses, lack of farms to market roads to facilitate the transporting of the crops etc.