“On United Nations Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to repair broken trust, to heal our planet, to leave no one behind and to uphold dignity for one and all. We don’t give up because we know by reducing inequality we increase hope and opportunity and peace around the world.”
The words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres resonate strongly at the Young 1ove offices today as we reflect on our commitment to reduce inequality through health and education. October 24 is devoted to educating and advocating for the aims and achievements of the United Nations Organization. The aims of the UN are outlined in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, commonly known as the ‘SDGs’, which act as a call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. By signing the Sustainable Development Goals, member states- including Botswana- agreed to work towards each goal by 2030. Young 1ove works closely with UN agencies UNICEF and UNAIDS to align our work with local, regional and international priorities, specifically SDG 3 and 4.
To ensure realistic achievement of these ambitious Goals, the Botswana Government has incorporated the Sustainable Development Goals into national frameworks including The National Development Plan 11 and Vision 2036. Similarly, Young 1ove’s work is guided by and also influences the realization of the SDGs for youth in Botswana.
Young 1ove is bringing the Goals to realization through our targeted, evidence-based interventions that are delivered by trained, youthful facilitators. Our programmes connect youth to proven life-saving information and empower them with the tools to make decisions about their health and education. Equipped with quality education and empowered with health information, youth are able to build sustainable and successful lives.
At Young 1ove, our health program focuses specifically on Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages. Although much has been accomplished since the inception of UN development goals, there still remains an urgent need for further sexual and reproductive health education and services. In Botswana, young women aged 15-24 years account for 27% of new infections. Furthermore, in 2018 the sub-Saharan adolescent birth rate sits at 101 births per 1,000 women, while the global average is 44.
In sub-Saharan Africa, intergenerational relationships between older men and younger girls are key drivers of HIV transmission and teen pregnancy. In Botswana, 45% of 40 year old men have HIV. Moreover, evidence shows that older men are more likely to engage in risky behavior, including unprotected sex, than young boys. If youth stopped having sex with older partners and instead date each other, where prevalence is capped at 5%, the epidemic can be controlled.
To ensure healthy lives and well-being for girls in Botswana, Young 1ove adapted an innovative, evidence-based 90-minute class delivered in government schools by peer educators. The program reveals unknown risks of older partners and encourages youth to safely date each other. With a local focus, we ensure that our programs are aligned to the global priorities outlined by the United Nations. In partnership with UNICEF and the government of Botswana, Young 1ove will deliver, test, and improve our healthy relationships programming throughout Botswana over the next three years, with the intention to scale a most impactful programme to all youth in Botswana and beyond.
In addition to Goal 3, we also focus on Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. We believe that obtaining a quality education is the foundation for improving lives and achieving sustainable development. While Botswana ranks highly on access to education, learning lags behind. Young 1ove conducted a situational analysis of basic literacy and numeracy in two regions and found striking gaps in learning: 32% of standard 5 students could not do subtraction, and 88% could not do division.
The Botswana Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) has identified a need for evidence-based strategies to assess and improve learning. Young 1ove recently signed a four-year Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Basic to provide students with a quality education intervention across Botswana. The intervention, Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL), divides students into groups based on learning needs rather than age or grade, dedicates time to basic skills rather than focusing solely on curriculum, and regularly assessing student performance, rather than relying only on end-of-year examinations. TaRL has been rigorously tested and proven successful in over 6 randomized evaluations in India and is now being piloted and implemented in Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Zambia and now, Botswana.
In partnership with UNICEF and the Ministry of Basic Education, Young 1ove will scale Teaching at the Right Level to all 755 primary schools in Botswana by 2022. Education is a fundamental human right and is indispensable for the achievement of sustainable development. Teaching at the Right Level will ensure SDG 4 is achieved in Botswana and students are equipped with the skills to address the other 16 goals.
The United Nations has set 2030 as the deadline for the completion of the Sustainable Development Goals. By the year 2030, the young people of today will be our leaders. It is critical that we invest in youth health and education to ensure they are prepared to meet future challenges. We are confident that our partnership with the Botswana Government, UNICEF and UNAIDS will influence the lives of millions of youth in Botswana and beyond. Comprehensive health education and quality education can be a reality for all!