Mpilonhle, an isiZulu word meaning “a good life”, is a South African community-based organization that was founded in 2006 and is based in King Cetshwayo District of northern KwaZulu-Natal Province. Mpilonhle is dedicated to identifying and implementing innovative solutions for the health and social problems faced by youth in South Africa, especially impoverished youth living in rural areas.
Mpilonhle was founded in 2006, and began operational activities in 2007. Its raison d'être was to provide health services in schools, including SRH services and HIV testing. This initiative represented a congruence of interests between the founders of Mpilonhle, who believed that a holistic intervention for youth – interventions that included social and complementary activities, as well as health services, including SRH services - were the most effective approach to dealing not only with HIV, but health in its larger context. This was a concept that was shared by the initial funding organizations. It was not, however, a widely shared concept at the time, where interventions directed against HIV were more narrowly focused. For instance, at that time we had to demonstrate that distribution of condoms in schools was well within current legal constructs, especially given the passage of the progressive Childrens Act of 2005 (http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/2005-038%20childrensact.pdf and https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000006) and attached. Mpilonhle persisted with its efforts to provide youth with a package of services that would not only enhance their health, but also their social development. We perceived, as does this incarnation of the GF AGYW initiative, that the two – health and impact on HIV, and social development – are mutually reinforcing. To that end, Mpilonhle added, as funding permitted, a range of complementary services to the health programmes that it delivered to schools. This included peer- support programmes, computer training and computer-based education for maths and science using the Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) which we worked collaboratively to adopt to operate on a local network without access to the web; sports activities; distribution of shoes and other essential material, including sanitary packs; and the provision in schools of sanitary water and hygiene facilities (boreholes and Enviroloos). Mpilonhle’s programme was recognized as being one of the 16 best practices in Primary Health Care in South Africa (and only of only two in KZN) in a report commissioned by the National Department of Health and Atlantic Philanthropies and conducted by the Health System’s Trust http://www.mpilonhle.org/wp- content/uploads/2015/01/Report-for-Good-Practices.pdf and attached).
Since then Mpilonhle has continued to work with youth, culminating in our current implementation of the first phase of the AGYW project, which we are successfully carrying out in KC District. As with all of the projects that Mpilonhle has conducted, essential to the success of the project has been community engagement. This includes the schools that we work at, their SGBs, the parents, and the communities that the schools are in. Mpilonhle has approached this in a structured way, so that engagement is not left to happenstance. Mpilonhle has also provided ancillary services that enhance the benefits of engagement, and not limited its services solely to HIV. That also has enhanced acceptance and success of the overall programme.