News

Engaging boys in prevention of HIV/AIDS and Gender Based Violence

4 September 2019
ELA Club boys playing a game of chess. Today, these agents of change are campaigners against gender based violence.

Tokora, Nakapiripirit District – Three times a week, Logel Justin and his friends meet at the Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) club, a modest but very youth friendly place where they spend most of their time. This club is very important to them as it provides them a venue to learn, read, sing, dance, play games and socialize with their peers.

Logel is among the 25 beneficiaries of the ELA boys club in Tokora. Due to poverty, he was forced to give up on school when he reached Senior Four. He started hanging out with other boys and they spent their time drinking alcohol, smoking, engaging in assault and sexual violence. 

“We thought that violence against women and girls was normal because we did not know anything about gender based violence. Some of us were married just because we wanted to have someone cooking for us at home,” says 23-year-old Logel.

According to the Uganda National Housing and Population Census 2014, the population of Karamoja is young with an average of 15 years. The Uganda Demographic Health Survey (2011) highlights that due to political and socio-cultural challenges, those adolescents and young people have limited access to SRH/HIV/GBV information and services.


Some of the members of the “Wind- Mill boy ELA club" with their
mentor.

A life- changing programme

“I have noticed the positive impacts in the lives of the ELA girls: they were empowered and self- confident. Besides, we have been sensitized on HIV/AIDS and I started questioning my HIV status,” added Logel. Convinced, the young boy and his friends joined the ELA club, which they proudly named “Wind- Mill boy ELA club.” Logel cited that since that time, they have been trained on sexual and reproductive health, life skills and financial literacy.

ELA boys find empowerment and happiness interacting with peers and mentors in this safe place. “I will never forget the day we started to have recreational activities and football. Outside, I think a lot about my problems, my failures,” explains Lokiru Godfrey, one of ELA boy support community members.

Now, these agents of change are not considered as perpetrators of violence against women anymore. They are respected by the community, they can confidently approach other adolescents and young people and discuss issues of concern. “It helps us to grow. Today I can sensitize and help anybody with what I have learnt about circumcision, GBV and HIV/AIDS. I can also teach them that some behavior and mindset are risky,” added Lokiru who grew up in this region where one third of young people have multiple sexual partners, according to 2017 UDHS.

 “If I had not engaged in this club, I would have been the same as before. Now I understand that it is important to stay with and take care of my family, I respect women, I no longer want to beat them,” said Logel.

Statistics

Since 2016, UNFPA has supported BRAC in implementing the ELA clubs. The programme was initially dedicated to adolescent girls, but thanks to its successful implementation and community interest, it expanded and fully engaged boys and young men.

The Karamoja region has 21 active clubs with a total of 529 members. As a result of the economic empowerment component of the programme, 81 boys run their own business and 73 have started saving money. Moreover, 200 boys have gone through HIV test and 207 confirm to use condom regularly. Based on interviews and community confessions, 468 members have changed their behavior and stopped violence, drug and alcohol abuse, theft and family neglect.

Under the KARUNA Programme, new ELA clubs will continue being created in the Karamoja region until 2020, to improve lives of out of school adolescents and young people.

-Written by  Maël Rabemananjara and  Klaiswa Rajab