As organisations, both ICRW and TAMASHA gained many valuable insights from this project, and specifically from the young people of Newala who participated. For example, the work we did through the Vitu Newala project really reinforced to us the importance of remaining flexible, that consistent and trust-based relationships matter and that vulnerable youth need extra and ongoing support.
“This was meant to be a participatory research and action project and it meant that, while we had gone in with some very clear ideas about what the issues were that we would address, we had to be flexible in that. So for it to be a truly participatory project, we had to take what the girls and the young people and the adults in these communities were saying, and take that as the voice of authority. So, while we had gone in initially with an idea focusing on HIV and HIV prevention messages and using that as really the core of the entire project, that wasn’t what we heard back from the young people or their parents. We heard a lot more about preventing unintended pregnancy and preventing early pregnancy. And, while we as researchers certainly understand that the vulnerabilities that were highlighted there to pregnancy are the same things that put girls at risk for HIV. We also had to understand that, if we’ve reflected those messages back just as HIV messages, they wouldn’t resonate with the young people we were trying to reach. So, it was an important lesson for us in saying, you know, as the international NGO coming into these communities and even with our local partner, TAMASHA, coming into these communities, we had to take a step back from our own agenda and really be sure that we were responding to the priorities identified by the communities themselves, and especially by the girls that were the center piece of this entire research and action project..”
– Jennifer McCleary-Sills, ICRW