Transforming the Policy Environment for Accelerating Access to SRHR by Adolescents and Young People within an SDG Framework, in Southern Africa



SAfAIDS ‘Transforming Lives’ programme is working to build a policy environment that ensures sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and rights for ALL. The programme is built on four strategic pillars: policy development; policy advocacy; social accountability monitoring (SAM) of SRH; and regional evidence and knowledge sharing.

SAfAIDS supports SADC policy makers to strengthen the policy environment; develop response guidelines on sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) and advocate for the prevention of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions among sexually active adolescents, as well as sharing progress and highlighting issues for address on the regional sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) agenda.

Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) The Transforming Lives programme contributes directly to SDG 3 on good health and wellbeing and SDG 5 on gender equality, as well as making linkages to targets under SDGs 10 and 16. It also contributes to specific targets towards achieving SDGs 1, 3, 4 and 10.


The programme addresses:

  • Sexual gender-based violence, contributing to SGD target indicators 4.7.1, 5.2.1 & 5.2.2;
  • Adolescent pregnancy and unsafe abortion with links to maternal mortality, contributing to SDG Indicators 3.7.2 and 5.3.1; and
  • Access to youth friendly SRH information and services, contributing to SDG indicators 5.6.2 and 10.2.1.


Transforming Lives – The Change We Want To See A more conducive policy environment that enables positive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes and realisation of SRH and rights (SRHR) among adolescents and young women in the SADC region.

We believe that policy change will improve the SRH outcomes of adolescents and young people in line with the SDGs (goals 3 and 5), the Maputo Plan of Action (MPoA, 2016–2020), the 90–90–90 agenda and the East & Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and SRH for young people.

A Three-Pronged Approach

  • Catalyse, stimulate or seed regional advocacy movements to generate multi-point pressure for change;
  • Transform the beliefs, opinions and attitudes of leaders and policy and decision-makers;
  • Facilitate policy development and reform through regional and national consultative meetings, advocacy and learning events, increased visibility and voice.

Our Programme Strategies

Engaging in policy development; policy advocacy and regional movement building; capacity strengthening in social accountability monitoring of SRHR and knowledge exchange and learning in three thematic areas:

  • Sexual gender-based violence;
  • Adolescent pregnancy and unsafe abortion; and
  • Social accountability monitoring of SRHR for young people.


Advocacy and Regional Movement Building

Launch and lead a Regional Campaign towards reducing sexual gender-based violence, adolescent pregnancy and unsafe abortions among sexually active adolescents across the region.

Capacity Strengthening in Social Accountability Monitoring of SRH for Young People

Support social accountability monitoring of SRH for young people through capacity strengthening and the development of SAM tools to gather data for use in advocacy.

Ensure operationalisation of standard operating procedures at service delivery level through monitored citizen-led actions that advocate, lobby with and influence governments and Regional Economic Councils, while monitoring performance and resource management for flexible and effective advocacy pathways.


Knowledge Exchange and Learning for Development

Collectively build and strategically share a regional body of evidence on what works (and what does not) in SAM of youth SRH, documenting best practices and case studies.

Utilise platforms such as ICASA, IAC, WHO the World Health Assembly and AU regional meetings to disseminate evidence-based knowledge: models, case studies and videos to civil society organisations, ministries, policy makers, donors and regional youth networks towards developing regional policy advocacy debate and networking.


SAfAIDS Transformational SRHR & Gender Leadership Academy

 Background of the Academy

SAfAIDS with support from Sweden Norad, under the Sustainable Communities of Real Excellence (SCORE) programme established a SRH Young People’s Leadership Academy (YPLA), which targets young women and young men aged between 18 and 24 years from southern Africa. In the last 3 years, SAfAIDS successfully piloted a Young Women Leadership programme with nine young women from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe and scaled up with 60 more from Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Last year, SAfAIDS successfully hosted 12 young women and men from Lesotho, Zambia and Zimbabwe as the first YPLA cohort. The young women and men who have participated in the YWL and YPLA programmes came from diverse backgrounds.                                                  

Following participation in the programme, the young women and men reported being very empowered to make the right SRH decisions for themselves including claiming their sexual rights and spaces. The YWL programme had a strong mentoring approach where the young women were attached to elder and prominent women that inspired them each day and linked them to educational and economic opportunities. These young women have become the African young women voice and take to the fore any platform to articulate SRH issues of their peers and themselves. The young women have become leaders in their own communities and are now implementing various SRH projects on changing the lives of other young women. Additionally, the YPLA alumni are also championing various SRHR projects utilizing social, cultural, political and religious spaces. It is against this background that the SCORE programme seeks to scale up this programme to reach 200 young people over 5 years, the majority of whom will be young women (120 young women and 80 young men from marginalised groups), towards closing the prevailing gap in young women leaders driving the SRH agenda across the region. Lessons from the previous programmes will be considered to continuously inform and shape the YPLA, as SAfAIDS incorporates the post-2015 agenda into its work.

The Academy is based in Zimbabwe at the SAfAIDS Regional Office, and reaches out to the region from this central hub point.  The SAfAIDS YPLA has an African sense of ownership and resonance for all young women and men who become part of it.

Main Aim of the Academy

The Academy aims to strengthen transformational leadership capacities for young people to be able to make informed SRH choices at individual and family levels; consolidate their educational and economic status; and advocate for their SRH rights to protect them and their peers from HIV and SGBV and improve their SRH outcomes.


  • Equip young people in southern Africa with critical skills to lead in the SRHR field
  • Enhance mentees’ understanding of SRHR in the era of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Build advocacy and activism skills on SRHR issues
  • Provide platforms for young people to learn, share and take action on SRH and leadership information and experiences to widen their life choices and options
  • Link the young people to SAfAIDS mentors to ensure continued growth among the young leaders


Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, for example, noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.


Recognising the wealth of experience within communities , SAfAIDS has documented and shared good practices in OVC programming. this is an effort to promote learning and replication of good practices and successful OVC internventions. 

in 2009, two good practices were documented in great detail. These were firstly, Africaid's "Zvandiri" project (providing pychosocial support to children and adolescents living with HIV). Secondly, JF Kapnek's Early Childhood Development centres. Both demonstrated a broad range of good practice criteria in their work. A good practice reoprt of these interventions has been published, entitled "Our Children, Our Future', and is available from SAfAIDS.


Everyone has a right to HIV prevention. Fulfilling that right begins with providing people who are at increased risk of HIV infection—includingyoung women and girls, and their male partners in sub-Saharan Africa, sex workers and their clients, gay men and other men who have sexwith men, people who inject drugs, transgender women, prisoners and people living with HIV—with access to effective, unhindered HIV prevention and treatment services. Everyone should be aware of HIV, and they should have the freedom to select and access prevention methods that fit their lives. For some, the right choice could be condoms; for others, it may be PrEP or adhering to antiretroviral therapy. For still others, it could be protection from violence and sexual abuse, or reducing their vulnerability—what matters is that they are empowered to take steps to protect themselves from HIV.


There is no magic bullet for HIV prevention; only a combination of behavioural, biomedical and structural programmes and approaches will fully stop new HIV infections. Antiretroviral therapy and condoms are both more than 90% effective if used consistently, but on their own, they are unlikely to achieve the HIV prevention targets set. Neither can be successful without addressing the legal, policy, and other structural barriers to their use and adherence. Modelling shows that fully achieving the 90-90-90 treatment target is expected to avert about 60% of all new HIV infections by 2020. The remaining 40% of new HIV infections have to be averted through prevention methods, such as condoms, VMMC, harm reduction services (including opioid substitution therapy and needle–syringe programmes), PrEP, outreach to key populations, education and empowerment of young women and girls. When these (and other) HIV prevention services and tools are combined, the protective effect is much greater than the sum of the individual elements.