Sentebale’s new health outreach for herd boys
From May 2017, Sentebale will be focusing on health outreach including HIV testing and counselling, psychosocial support and advocating for herd boys’ rights.
Lesotho’s herd boys are a marginalised section of the community and one of its most vulnerable populations. The tradition of tending to livestock in the mountains, from as young as 10 years old, means they often miss opportunities access to health services and life skills training afforded to their peers in mainstream schools (UNAIDS, 2015).
This new programme direction came from an evaluation of Sentebale’s current programme provision to herd boys. When the charity was established in 2006, education was one of the biggest barriers for herd boys. Now, with the Ministry of Education having scaled up its response, delivering education through the Lesotho Distance Teaching Centre (LDTC), Lesotho Association of Non Formal Education (LANFE), Sentebale wanted to change focus within our work with herd boys to ensure we are doing as much as possible to help support them, whilst focusing on our core strengths – fighting the AIDS epidemic and providing psychosocial support to young people.
In April 2017, the Mokhotlong health outreach for herd boys was launched at Matsoing and more than 380 herd boys attended the event. A range of services were provided to herd boys and they included tests for diabetes, hearing, blood pressure, dentistry, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) and BMI. The event was attended by district officials, local media and Sentebale’s founding patron Prince Seeiso.
HIV testing will become an integral part of this health outreach for herd boys, with testing scheduled to happen in partnership with the District Health Management Team in Mokhotlong on a weekly basis. Since the launch, over 130 have tested, with 14% found HIV-positive and referred to health services. Sentebale’s work to train the herd boys’ teachers in psychosocial support will ensure they have people in their lives who can help to support them through difficult situations, such as a HIV diagnosis.
On 16th May, Prince Seeiso also attended Sentebale’s first herd boy advocacy event. Inspired by our new Let Youth Lead advocacy programme, this was a summit in which ten herd boy representatives met with policy makers and duty bearers to share the critical issues and vulnerabilities of being a herd boy. Some of the key points which were raised were around labour law issues, but stigma and discrimination also had a large part to play, with communities not understanding their struggle or involving them, and police making assumptions about them based on their situation.
All duty bearers who were gathered, including the Police Chief, Principal Chief of Leribe, Chief Magistrate and Member of Parliament, were in agreement that action must be taken to support the herd boys; this was to include protection from police, advice on their rights and educating communities about the vulnerabilities of herd boys. There was a pledge to commit to progressing these key topics at a government level and within the districts.