World Aids Day Activity Theme: Young Women Coding for an HIV/AIDS Free Society

Prior to the World AIDS Day 2016, 40 young women aged 19-24 years with post-secondary education from Kisumu and Nairobi counties  will be taken through a two-day intensive training on HIV/AIDS transmission and associated risk factors in their environments. They will then be introduced to a coding skills session through “Day of Code” activity after which they will be required to form groups of ten and brainstorm on a business case solution that they can develop for their group based on the knowledge/skills they have acquired during their training. Based on their solution, they will be required to develop mobile app/web based solutions/concepts to support their idea. The mobile apps/web based concepts developed will be presented to a plenary during the World AIDS Day celebrations in Kisumu and Nairobi counties as potential solutions in the fight for an HIV/AIDs free society. We expect that in the long term, the young women will receive support/mentorship to complete their products and generate some financial gains.

The ‘Vusha  Girls Employability Program is a workforce development program that seeks to improve employment prospects and income generating capacities of 1,000 high potential but disadvantaged young women aged 19-24 years from low-income house-holds in Kisumu and Nairobi counties and decrease their risk for transactional sex work and HIV infection. The program targets young women living and working in the fishing bays of Kisumu and those living and working in the informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya. The young women will be at their transition point from high school/vocational/tertiary education to the world of work.

According to the National Aids Control Council (NACC), 88,620 new HIV infections occurred among adults in 2013. Of the new adult HIV infections, 21% occur among young women aged 15-24 every year. Prevalence estimates by county shows that Kisumu and Nairobi counties in which the Vusha Girls Employability program will be implemented are among the ten counties in Kenya  with the highest prevalence with the burden of HIV on women in the two counties being higher than that of men. In Kisumu county, women account for 20.6% HIV infection while men account for 17.8%. Similarly, in Nairobi County, women account for 8.4% prevalence rate while men account for only 5.3%. This is attributed to poverty, lack of economic livelihoods, deprivation of material resources and lack of alternative employment and income generation opportunities.

In Kisumu county, studies have established that women living and working in the fishing bays of Lake Victoria are exposed to a distinct form of transactional sex commonly referred to as “jaboya” (boyfriend) in which women who wish to sell fish in the market secure their source of fish by establishing a relationship with a fisherman (or fishermen), which involves accepting sexual engagement with him in order to secure the rights to buy fish to sell onwards. As a result, female fishmongers are in constant competition with one another to secure a steady supply of fish by acquiring and keeping these partners from as many boats as possible to succeed in the fish business. Due to the nature and context of the sexual intercourse, sex typically occurs in a hurried manner, often without preparation or protection. In Nairobi’s informal settlements, studies have revealed that young women engage in transactional sex as a result of deprivation of material resources such as housing, food and health care, and a desire for fashionable goods such as latest hair or clothing styles, cellular phones, jewelry, shoes; and to some extent educational needs.

The Vusha Girls Employability solution provides a bridge to employment to these young women expected to lead to financial independence that will in turn decrease their risk for transactional sex and HIV. The young women, once empowered are expected to support their immediate family members and communities.