The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation is a non-profit organization working to lessen the impact of the HIV epidemic on individuals, families, and communities. We conduct research to find new HIV treatment and prevention tools and provide services such as mobile clinics and HIV education programs. One of our largest projects at the moment is a female empowerment programme called Women of Worth, which we are implementing in Klipfontein and Mitchell’s Plain in collaboration with the Western Cape Department of Health.

Women of Worth aims to provide empowerment workshops to 10,000 women (aged 19-24 years) that focus on job readiness, sexual and reproductive health promotion, as well as tackling mental health issues and gender norms. Young women that attend have access to free and comprehensive health screening services from our mobile clinics, and receive a small stipend conditional on their attendance.

Women of Worth is entering its third year of running and the feedback from participants has been positive so far:

One participant said about her experience, “I never thought I’d be the woman I am today.   When I joined the course I lacked self-confidence and didn’t believe in myself.   Today I believe that nothing is impossible as long as I give it my all”.

Another participant said, I firstly learnt to take care of myself, to know what I want and to go after it.  We were taught to start to believe in ourselves, and that whatever history or background we come from cannot determine where we are heading.”

To help make this be the generation to end the HIV/AIDS, HIV prevention strategies that are acceptable, community-based and meet the youth where they are, are greatly needed.  Research has shown that HIV prevention programs that provide comprehensive sexual education and that incorporate gender and power dynamics have a greater effect on HIV outcomes than those that do not. These Women of Worth are strong, confident young women leading the way into a better future.

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