Young 1ove

Day 2 of our Botswana trip took us to an MIT alumni’s nonprofit called Young 1ove. We were at Young 1ove for five hours learning about the culture in Botswana, school-age children and HIV, Young 1ove’s programs and their future plans. It is an evidence-based organization that aims to improve the lives of young Batswana.

No Sugar please

Their first campaign was called ‘No Sugar’. Their facilitators gave one-hour workshops to school girls on not having sex with older partners, termed ‘sugar daddy’. Their poster on the right shows this. Young Batswana girls have a higher HIV rate infection due to sex with older partners who are more likely to be HIV-positive. Further, because of the power dynamics, the girls are unable to negotiate for condom use. The only HIV prevention that school gives them is the message of abstinence. No condoms can be distributed within schools.Young love poster

From Evidence to implementation of HIV prevention

Young 10ve started with idea of taking an RCT result from Kenya and implementing it on scale in Botswana. The Kenyan RCT showed that educating young girls about sex with older partners showed a 25% decline in HIV infection rate. However, before going to scale, they tested out the program in Botswana. The Batswana RCT involved 42,000 girls in 340 schools who were educated in 40 days. However, it didn’t give as clear results as Kenya so Young 1ove is not scaling the program. Instead, it is now focusing on a month-long educational intervention called ‘Teaching at the right level’.

Founding a non-profit in Africa

Young 1ove turned three years old yesterday. Noam Angrist was working for the World Bank when he met his Batswana co-founder at the University of Botswana. From then, the organization has grown with funds from the Big Bang Philanthropy, Global Innovation Fund and Botswana government and para-statal agencies. Unlike traditional development aid agencies, Big Bang Philanthropy gave them unrestricted funding which enabled them to experiment with program design.

I walked away from this trip still wondering about how can young girls be best protected from HIV. It felt that health here was mainly being determined by social determinants like family structures, cultural values and norms. This needs to change where we give more agency to young women. Noam, and others like him, will hopefully keep that mantle high.

Devika

Devika is a first-year MBA student at MIT Sloan. She's passionate about improving healthcare access and quality of care for the underserved. She has implemented mobile health systems in Asia and Africa. She enjoys food photography and loves reading and cooking.

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