Empowering marginalized and vulnerable communities in Namibia

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Feature story

Empowering marginalized and vulnerable communities in Namibia

13 August 2012

Thusnelda Guruses, Project Coordinator from Hui Da Re, a community-based organization, encourages participants through storytelling to critically think about multiple concurrent relationships and HIV transmission.

The Khaibasen Community Project in Namibia has been engaged in raising awareness, providing education and giving a voice to vulnerable communities, especially girls who are engaging in transactional sex to make ends meet.

“I have felt emotionally and mentally empowered by the talk sessions which the Khaibasen Community Project has given us. The psycho-social support group meetings gave me important knowledge about my rights and how to take care of myself,” said Gan-Gans, a 24-year-old sex worker and a regular attendee of these meetings. The community project supports vulnerable women and girls in the informal settlement of Keetmanshoop, to enable them to better articulate their rights and deal with critical issues, such as sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, and HIV prevention, care and treatment services.

“With the financial and capacity building support provided by UNAIDS we are able to reach vulnerable women in informal settlements in Keetmanshoop,” said Desiree Haman, Coordinator of the Khaibasen Community Project. The project provides HIV-related advice, training and support to women, including sex workers, transgendered women, lesbians and young people, especially in the Karas region.

This fund is extremely important and without this financial and capacity building support grassroots groups working with communities in informal settlements would not be able to sustain their work

Jennifer Gatsi Mallet, Director of Namibia Women’s Health Network

Information-sharing meetings and workshops are also organized to assist women to understand their basic rights in accessing public services and provides training  on how to mobilize and educate other women in their settlements. “This fund is extremely important and without this financial- and capacity-building support grassroots groups working with communities in informal settlements would not be able to sustain their work,” said Jennifer Gatsi Mallet, Director of Namibia Women’s Health Network. According to Ms Mallet, community programmes supported by UNAIDS have seen significant progress in scaling up and promoting community ownership, leadership and continuity in changing small community-based groups, especially those led by young women and men.

Since 2002, UNAIDS has given small grants to more than 175 organizations in Namibia, which are implementing catalytic HIV prevention and care activities at the grassroots level. Namibia’s HIV response for communities in informal settlements continues to be primarily funded by development partners. The Government of Finland has donated 800,000 euros to UNAIDS for the implementation of grassroot level activities in southern Namibia during this period. Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms have also been put in place to ensure the funds are appropriately utilized to assist the poorest and the most vulnerable communities.

“Finland's human rights-based approach to development aims to ensure that even the poorest know their rights and are able to exercise them,” said Anne Saloranta, Chargé d'Affaires at the Embassy of Finland in Namibia. “Development entails more and better possibilities for people to influence and enhance their own lives.”

In 2011, this programme (also known as Small Grant Fund) was repositioned to fill a strategic niche in the HIV-related funding landscape in Namibia: to provide funding and capacity building support to community-based organisations working to address the vulnerability to HIV of marginalised populations in informal settlements in the Khomas, Karas and Hardap region. Special focus is placed on young women and girls, people with disabilities and people living with HIV.

Finland's human rights-based approach to development aims to ensure that even the poorest know their rights and are able to exercise them

Anne Saloranta, Chargé d'Affaires at the Embassy of Finland in Namibia

The programme has shown that it does not take billions of dollars to make a difference in people´s lives. Support provided by the initiative has enabled these organizations to reinforce the grassroots interventions to address issues relate to HIV at the community level.

Another beneficiary has been the Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD). The association serves as an innovative, responsive and dynamic organization to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights, needs and concerns of deaf people in Namibia. Often marginalized due to their disability, they bring renewed hope for the deaf community in Namibia. They have been increasing awareness on issues affecting deaf people at all levels from making information available to raising awareness about issues on sexual reproductive health, family planning and gender based violence. A major goal is to reduce the burden of HIV in deaf communities in the Khomas, Hardap and Karas regions. Paul Nanyeni, Chairperson for NNAD, said he is thankful for the support. “We are happy with UNAIDS because we are able to offer the deaf community training on HIV and gender-based violence, which could otherwise be a big catastrophe in their lives,” said Mr. Nayeni. “With this support, the Association can provide better services for the deaf.”