SAfAIDS will soon be implementing a new Sweden-funded regional programme, Transforming Lives, with a strong social accountability component. SAfAIDS Media team leader, Tariro Makanga-Chikumbirike (TMC), interviewed Juliet Mkaronda (JM), Head of Regional Programmes, to shed light on the new programme.
TMC: Could you explain the SAfAIDS Transforming Lives programme; what exactly are you going to be focusing on in the next three years?
JM: Transforming Lives is a regional policy advocacy programme being implemented in the southern African region with components covering all SADC countries. The six Implementing focus countries are Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, where SAfAIDS has offices and focal points, while the remaining eight SADC countries will be involved as collaborating and networking countries.
The programme aims to contribute to a more conducive policy environment enabling positive sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) outcomes among adolescents and young women in southern Africa. It will support policy development by facilitating SADC sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) response guidelines for adolescents, for adoption by SADC Member States. It will also advocate for SADC Member States to scale up prevention of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortion among sexually active adolescents. The programme will strengthen the capacity of regional youth organisations and networks in social accountability monitoring (SAM) of the delivery of youth-friendly SRH information and services in the region. Lastly, it will enhance knowledge sharing of models, innovations and strategies on SGBV, unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortion and SAM among adolescents within the region and across broader sectors.
TMC: Explain the social accountability component of the project.
JM: The programme will facilitate regional youth-led social accountability monitoring, including sub-groups of young LGBTI, through capacity strengthening and provision of SAM tools. It also has a component of piloting the translation of SAM data into advocacy tools and platforms at the AU, SADC and SADC PF, in line with the recommendations of the Maputo Plan of Action (2016-2030). These are specific to SRH service affordability, accessibility, availability and quality for adolescents and young people. This pillar of the programme will provide a means to apply performance monitoring to ensure that SRH resources are being managed well.
TMC: Why SAfAIDS interest in social accountability?
JM: SAfAIDS has been implementing SRHR programmes targeted at youth and we believe it is now important that we empower young people with the skills to collect evidence they can use to hold policy makers accountable in the planning, budgeting and utilisation of public resources in relation to SRH for young people. To bring to account duty-bearers (governments and Regional Economic Bodies) and effectively advocate, lobby and influence policy decisions and translation of policy into practice, and operationalised standard operating procedures at service delivery level, citizen-led SAM is imperative.
TMC: What can we expect to see in the next three years?
JM: In the next three years, expect to see regional and national youth coalitions applying social accountability monitoring knowledge and skills in tracking and monitoring youth-friendly SRH services. You will also see Members of Parliament posing motions in Parliament on health, education, gender and finance, influencing budgetary processes, and putting pressure on the Executive (governments) to operationalise policies and frameworks, to cost them, or to enforce corrective action where SRH service quality for young people has been compromised.