The focused workshop (FW) intervention evolved from the Organisational Workshop, which provides training and support for communities to organise themselves and create sustainable enterprises, thus improving their economic and development opportunities. Initial focus groups suggested that the FW intervention:
- Should focus especially on empowerment of young women (aged around 15-24) who are often involved in transactional sex, especially with older men, yet who are usually not the focus of structural interventions
- Should include more than economic aspects of empowerment, and should be sustainable
- Should leverage access by young women to existing programmes and grants available in each country
The aim of the FW is to provide support for young women and help them to find alternatives so that they have less need or inclination to resort to transactional and transgenerational sex, with its attendant risks of HIV infection. Focus groups of young women and older men in 2009 provided some insight about why both parties get involved in transactional and transgenerational sex, despite being well aware of the risks, and what might help young women to avoid such risky behaviour.
The FW takes into account that almost all current AIDS prevention strategies address the choice-enabled – those who can take preventive measures if they want to – and many young women are not in this position. The FW helps young women to mobilise and organise, building life skills and business skills to help them make positive changes in their lives.
In communities allocated to receive the FW intervention, CIET researchers invite groups of young women aged 18-24 years to participate, particularly those neither in school nor in work. The intervention begins with a skills workshop over about one week, covering skills of communication, negotiation, resisting peer pressure, and building assertiveness and self-esteem. During the workshop, the participants identify and plan an income generating enterprise they could develop together.
Follow-up supports the young women to develop their enterprise and, if relevant, to apply for loans and grants already available in the country. The FW groups across the three countries have embarked on a variety of small-scale enterprises, from hair salons, to bakeries, to polish making, to vegetable gardening.
Some groups hold a community feast to consolidate their training in budgeting, logistics, and delivery. At this feast they present their enterprise to their community, including community leaders and invited guests such as those from relevant government departments. Organising this feast consolidates their training and changes their standing in the eyes of their community, and in their own eyes.