The Swa Koteka Project is a 3-year research programme being implemented in the Bushbuckridge area in Mpumalanga. Swa Koteka means: ‘It is possible!’ The programme has two components. The first component aims to reduce girls risk of HIV by keeping them in school by providing a cash transfer paid to the young women and their families conditional on school attendance. There is quite a lot of research showing that young women who stay in school and complete school are at lower risk of acquiring the HIV virus compared to young women who do not complete school. Economic barriers are a major reason why young people in South Africa report dropping out of school thus the aim of the cash transfer is to help alleviate both financial and personal barriers to school attendance.
The second component of the programme aims to change negative gender norms and HIV risk behaviours of men in the communities in which young women live through community mobilisation. Given that young women are put at risk of HIV not only through their own behaviours but also due to factors beyond their control, in particular, the behaviours of their partners, boyfriends or men in their community, it is important that programmes also focus on men. This programme, to mobilise around changing negative gender norms and creating a safer context for girls to thrive, is called the Bushbuckridge One Man Can Community Mobilisation Programme.
We know that HIV risk in our communities is caused by multiple factors and thus programmes that work to reduce risk must work to reduce risk at multiple levels. Thus Swa Koteka aims to keep young women and men safe by aiming to keep young women in school and working to mobilise communities to engage men and boys for gender equality.