08.01.2013 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Reduce HIV infections and teenage pregnancy in Cape Verde through socio-cultural approaches

Messages to reduce risk behaviors are not enough to reduce HIV infections and teenage pregnancy.

In Cape Verde, young people’s knowledge about sexual and reproductive issues is often higher than in other Western and Central African countries, but this knowledge has failed to conduce changes in behavior, particularly in terms of teenage pregnancies (92 pregnancies per 1,000 girls aged 15-19, according to UNICEF).

“New approaches are needed are needed to address vulnerability as well as risk behavior,” says Zulmira Rodrigues of UNESCO’s Office in Dakar, who is facilitating the workshop.

Prevention programmes typically focus on messages to reduce risk behaviors, often by providing knowledge about the consequences of such behavior and about means of prevention.

Such approaches have had a limited success as they paid little attention to vulnerability factors. Among the vulnerability factors, culture is considered a particularly tricky issue to address but it’s crucial as culture often hampers the adoption of new behaviors.

“Examples of interventions show that participatory approaches at community levels can build on culture to find sustainable solutions to sexual and reproductive health issues,” says Xavier Hospital of UNESCO Dakar who is also facilitating the workshop.

Turning social and cultural factors into allies

UNESCO is therefore organizing a workshop on 8-10 January 2013 in Santa Cruz, a municipality located in the eastern part of the island of Santiago in southern Cape Verde.

Thirty active community members and 6 observers will participate in the workshop to design the socio-cultural approach (SCA), which aims to turn social and cultural factors as allies to reduce vulnerability and risk behavior.

The SCA intervention was developed in Mozambique and has proved effective in conducing behavioral changes. The approach consists of bringing together providers (such as ministries, NGOs and UN agencies) and ‘behavior makers’, who are community members who are traditionally responsible to define or watch over social norms, practices and acceptable behavior in their community to to deal with priority issues defined at local level.

The workshop will be facilitated by two UNESCO facilitators in collaboration with the UN Population Fund, the Cape Verdean Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Youth, as well as local education authorities, representatives from local schools and health technicians working in local health facilities.

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