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Making good financial choices

aspires-300ASPIRES works to improve the long-term economic security and HIV prevention knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in South Africa. With funding from USAID and PEPFAR, NACOSA provides training, mentoring and technical support to two community organizations – Zisize Educational Trust and Ezisakweni Development Initiative (EDI) – to deliver the ASPIRES Project in KwaZulu-Natal.

The organisations work with low-income youth infected or affected by HIV and AIDS, mainly between the ages of 14 and 17. Because of their increased risk of becoming infected, young women and girls are a key or priority population and make up at least 60% of the groups. The organisations help build the sexual and reproductive health knowledge and financial capabilities of youth so that they are empowered to make better choices.

The project is clearly inspiring young people in KwaZulu-Natal, with 95% attendance across workshop sessions amongst the 154 youth taking part. Drawing in youth from deep rural communities the organisations also support and encourage young people to set-up and run savings groups. So far 63 of the participants have formed savings groups and 48 individual young people have opened bank accounts as part of a savings group.

Parents are supportive and have shown interest in the groups’ activities to such an extent that they give their children monthly deposits to save. The young people use their new financial capabilities knowledge not only to save for their futures but also to start small income-generating activities such as selling airtime, chips and sweets. One savings group has started a catering company which makes food for all the workshop sessions.

“I was so proud of myself for saving money on my own. I lifted the weight on my mother’s shoulders for buying the blazer that I wanted to have for so long, since Primary [school].” – Ayanda, 16

Perhaps most significantly, project leaders have noticed significant attitude and behaviour-change amongst the young people who have been through the training  and are now making better financial choices.

Financial Capabilities specialist, Rags Poppleton, provides ongoing support, ensuring that facilitators deliver a good programme to communities.

By Mfundo Marasha, NACOSA Finance & Economic Strengthening Officer

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