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Girl Scouts and Girl Guides: Twinning, Taking Action Against HIV/AIDS
The five thousand miles separating the Girl Scouts Louisiana East and San Diego-Imperial councils from their Girl Guide sisters living in Kenya didn't stop these young leaders from connecting and taking action to educate their peers about HIV/AIDS prevention.
Worldwide, it's estimated that 33 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS. Women account for 50 percent of all individuals living with these conditions and 59 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. But the girls participating in the vital twinning project had an understanding of HIV/AIDS that transcended statistics: New Orleans has one the highest rates of HIV/AIDS occurrence in the U.S., and one of the girls from the New Orleans council has a friend's mother who is afflicted. At the San Diego council, more than 50 girls asked to participate with their New Orleans and Kenyan sisters on the HIV/AIDS education project, and in Kenya, Girl Guides have been acting as peer educators to combat HIV/AIDS and related issues since 1999. Together, these groups developed innovative peer education programs that empowered the girls to engage and educate their communities on HIV/AIDS and related topics.
This profound personal knowledge and the fact that millions of women are living with HIV/AIDS inspired the girls to participate/join in a new twinning partnership model, bringing together two sister organizations and an international partner in order to participate in a global approach to HIV/AIDS peer education. In the winter of 2007, both GSUSA and KGGA (Kenya Girl Guides Association) became members of a public-private partnership entitled HIV Free Generation,* which was initiated by the U.S. State Department's President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR). The twinning partnership between Girl Scouts Louisiana East, San Diego-Imperial, and girls in four regions throughout Kenya is one of the primary ways these two member organizations are working in partnership with PEPFAR to combat this global epidemic.
Girl Scouts and Girl Guides: Educating and Empowering Globally
Using videoconferencing technologies, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from New Orleans, San Diego, and Kenya discussed how HIV/AIDS affects their respective communities. A delegation of girls from the New Orleans and San Diego councils and two young women from the Kenya Girl Guides Association traveled to New York and attended the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women. There, the girls were able to talk with women living with HIV/AIDS—and they used this new information to strengthen their own HIV/AIDS education efforts.
The San Diego girls developed a wide range of educational and program activities, from writing articles about HIV/AIDS prevention to organizing opportunities for confidential HIV testing.
Girl Scouts and Girl Guides: Empowering and Protecting Communities Today and Tomorrow
The cooperation between New Orleans, San Diego, and Kenya continues today. The participation rate among all three locations is exceptional, and the girls feel privileged to participate in a truly global endeavor. They use Facebook and videoconferences to update one another on their HIV/AIDS education efforts and on how they are taking action to keep their peers and their communities informed, aware, and healthy.
*HIV Free Generation is a pilot program with a goal of reducing the incidence of HIV infection by 50 percent in youth between the ages of 10 to 24. The program aims to impact incidence in youth through facilitating communication and self-awareness, teaching economic and general life skills, and training and providing youth with access to youth-friendly centers throughout Kenya.