GABORONE, BOTSWANA – – The visiting Lesotho Prince, His Royal Highness, Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso recently joined other distinguished guests in the country for the Second Youth HIV Summit, and organization he co-founded and is the patron. These included First Lady Neo Jane Masisi, British High Commissioner Katy Ransome, the Coordinator of the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency, Richard Matlhare, UNICEF Country representative Juliana Lindsey and Sentebale Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Richard Miller among others in an effort to further bolster the foot print of his brain child, the charity organization that he formed with the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry.
The Youth HIV Summit gathered atleast 60 adolescents and young people and was intended to provide a platform for them to meaningfully engage with stakeholders on issues surrounding HIV and youth.
Briefing the Summit delegates in Gaborone recently, Prince Seeiso said he waited three years to visit Sentebale Botswana and truly felt honored to see the growth the Botswana branch has achieved in less than 3 years.
Briefing the delegates in Gaborone recently, Prince Seeiso said he waited three years to visit Sentebale Botswana and truly felt honored to see the growth the Botswana branch has achieved in less than 3 years.
“When Sentebale was conceptualized by Prince Harry and myself in Lesotho some 13 years ago, we had no idea that its imprint would go beyond the borders of Lesotho. As you all know, the Botswana office was opened in June 2016 and I am immensely proud of what the team has achieved in a short period of 3 years.
The milestones reached with 47 clubs serving 1,238 adolescents, some in very remote areas of the county including 47 caregiver groups with over 950 members. Camps conducted every school holidays (in April, July and December) reaching 1,115 children since December 2016 to July 2019. We have constructed a campsite in the outskirts of Tonota with a capacity of 120 people,” he said.
“In excess of 1.2 Million Pula has been raised locally; the bulk of this contribution is from NAHPA (for clubs and camps) and the Diamond Empowerment Fund; their focus is on our youth program. I would like to thank the Government of Botswana for providing a conducive environment for Sentebale to flourish and reach our goals.
The Government has also continued to honour the terms and obligations of our Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and this has made our work much easier; I have been informed that the District Heath Management teams offer support to our clubs and camps. Furthermore, through the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA), government has shown commitment to empower young people and build their skills as stakeholders in the fight against HIV,” he added.
Furthermore, Prince Seiso said, “I have also been informed that the First Lady, Neo Masisi is leading the national campaign to mobilize young people through schools with a tagline of ‘Di Palametse’. I was delighted to learn that Sentebale has participated in some of these events as one of the key stakeholders.”
Prince Seeiso added that young people continue to grow up in a technologically dominated era, hence old methods of reaching them through billboards are outdated.
“Young people respond to modern forms of communication which may seem complicated to the adults therefore believe that they are best placed to develop and lead initiatives for the desired change; this is what the Let Youth Lead program is all about – ‘Nothing for us without us’”.
For his part, Matlhare said Sentebale Botswana is a significant platform where young people thrive as they discuss challenges related to HIV as seen and felt from their perspective. He said this an opportunity which all youth must take full advantage of.
“Whereas the global trends point towards a general decline in the rate of new HIV infections, the situation remains a concern for adolescents. Within this age group, females are more affected than males for reasons that I believe are now well known to all of us. We recently launched the Third Botswana National Strategic Framework for HIV & AIDS: 2019-2023; New HIV infections vary according to age group, about 69% of new HIV infections occur among persons aged 15-34 years.
Girls and women aged 15-34 account for 75% of new infections among all women. These statistics are shocking! In spite of Botswana being globally recognized as a success story in the fight against HIV and AIDS, we are still challenged by the trend of the epidemic amongst the youth.”
“Most of the time, we as policy makers do our best to plan programmes that we hope will have a higher impact for our various demographic groups, unfortunately it seems like we missed the point when it comes to the youth and young women with regards to HIV prevention. For this reason, we at NAHPA appreciate initiatives by Sentebale to highlight the importance of youth engagement. We were together last week in some parts of the Central District on the First Lady’s outreach campaign with the tag line ‘Di Palametse”; #FetaJaana. Our First Lady, Neo Masisi is dedicated to mobilizing young people, their families and the communities in which they live to create safe spaces for meaningful conversations that will empower the youth,” he briefed the attendants.