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Uganda: "Go-Getters" Fight Cross-Generational Sex


KAMPALA, Uganda— PSI Go-Getters clubs, a pilot program for young women to build self-esteem and improve risk perceptions of cross-generational sex, have attracted the attention of influential officials and dignitaries in America and Uganda and are receiving a positive response from the young women they reach. Go-Getters clubs have started at three Ugandan universities, working with local businesses, which provide skill-building internships, and enlisting local faith-based groups to train their members as peer educators.


Kent Hill, head of USAID's Global Health Bureau, attended a Go-Getter's  function at Makerere University in March and had a chance to interact  with the club members directly. At the subsequent briefing session with PSI he said that he was impressed with this program and asked about the potential for replicating it in other countries.


PSI defines cross-generational sex as a sexual relationship between a man and a woman with at least a 10-year difference in age. Research with girls aged 14-17 who have had such relationships revealed that the girls' short-term goals took precedence over the risk of long-term consequences, including HIV infection. The benefits for these girls were often as little as a plate of chips, a mobile phone, clothes or cosmetics. Focus group discussions provided the basis for the development of the Go-Getters program targeting girls in their first year of university education.


Since December, PSI has been working with the First Lady of Uganda, Mrs. Janet Museveni; the Queen of Buganda, Her Royal Highness Sylvia Nagginda; and other role models to condemn cross-generational sex and mobilize social support against the practice. HRH Sylvia Nagginda is the chair of PSI/Uganda's Board of Advisors.


PSI/Uganda has a strong HIV/AIDS prevention program that promotes abstinence, mutual fidelity, condom use, voluntary counseling and testing and the prevention of sexually-transmitted infection and mother-to-child transmission.  In 2004, PSI estimates that its products and services in Uganda prevented almost 7,000 HIV infections and 272,000 unintended pregnancies.


A young woman's decision to attend university demonstrates ambition, but once introduced to the uninhibited environment of campus life, young  women are subject to a variety of social and financial pressures — social  pressures to fit in with and look like their peers, and financial pressure  to maintain this image. The university setting, therefore, provides the perfect breeding ground for cross-generational relationships. Older men have recognized and capitalized upon this.


 The Go-Getters clubs are funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development via AIDSMark and run by PSI-trained peer educators to impart  life skills, raise risk perception of HIV infection, cultivate confidence and self-esteem and encourage young girls to look beyond short-term gratification and plan for long-term goals. The program starts with the premise that the exchange of sex for a plate of chips or a mobile phone is not only degrading to women but is simply not worth the risk.  The desired outcome is motivated, career-focused and goal-oriented women.


 The program is being piloted in the three main universities of Kampala.  PSI will use existing university faith based networks to implement the program in one of the three universities. During recruitment for the clubs, PSI worked with the University's Muslim, Catholic, Anglican and Seventh Day Adventist groups. Peer educators from each of these groups will be trained to guide the club members through the 12-month program.  Fortnightly Go-Getters club meetings follow an activities guide. Through these activities, girls are encouraged to discuss issues related to cross-generational sex and to appreciate the risks they pose both in terms of health and the attainment of their goals.


 Monthly talks and presentations will be held using successful, local women from various professional backgrounds to give the girls tangible evidence of what they can achieve and tips on how to do it. Local businesses are being lobbied to provide internships for the members of these clubs. Girls will be placed according to their ambitions to provide extra impetus for them to focus on their long-term goals. Coca Cola has agreed to mentor ten interns and are offering full-time positions  to two of them.


Although still in its initial phase, the Go Getters clubs have received an overwhelmingly positive response, particularly from university administrations  that acknowledge this as a critical intervention to counter a growing  trend among their female students.


Twebese Rukandema, PSI/Uganda


March 22, 2004

From Population Services International


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