Saint Lucia: From Girls at-Risk to Girls Empowered in St. Lucia (April 2010)

In the Caribbean, young women are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection than their male peers. To combat this disparity, Girl Guides, a program supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is working to enhance the advancement of girls, providing an opportunity for young women in the Eastern Caribbean to develop and exercise their leadership skills in order to reduce their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

In the impoverished fishing village of Anse-La-Raye, the Girl Guides of Saint Lucia, with the support of a PEPFAR small grant, launched the Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles Training Program in October 2008. Run by a Peace Corps volunteer and a Saint Lucian native, this training aimed to empower Girl Guides to reduce their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS in order to lead healthy, productive lives. The program also provided skill-building sessions to groups that wished to further the design and management of community HIV prevention projects.

Along with hosting these sessions, Anse-La-Raye Girls Guides created HIV "fact books" to document information, reflections, and lessons learned since the implementation of the Lifestyles program. Girl Guides also explored everyday contexts and tracked and assessed their decision-making against the personal goals and achievements they set for themselves. Additionally, they made and posted HIV education and healthy lifestyles posters around the island on World AIDS Day 2009, and hosted teach-ins for their mothers, aunts and grandmothers.

Anse-La-Raye Girl Guides also visited Dennery, a nearby fishing village, to share their posters and conduct HIV education and prevention activities among their peers. The work of the Anse-La-Raye Girl Guides inspired the girls in Dennery and motivated them to revive their Girl Guides troop. Since this visit, Dennery Girl Guides have created posters on HIV/AIDS transmission, care and support, as well as HIV "fact books," which were exhibited in the village as a way to raise community HIV/AIDS awareness. The Dennery Girl Guides were also trained as peer educators and today host sessions about HIV/AIDS at local schools.

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