There was mixed emotion when 15 KP-REACH key correspondents and two support staff met at the key correspondents’ reflection and evaluation workshop in Durban, South Africa, from 11 to 13 September 2018.
On one hand, they were excited because of the success of the initiative and on the other they were not so happy that such a unique and growing initiative was ending.
Following their recruitment in 2016, the key correspondents, also known as citizen journalists, were trained and mentored by Positive Vibes Trust to support the LGBT+ and sex worker community in the eight Southern Africa countries. They documented not only their own, but the experiences of LGBT+ and sex workers in their local communities and made efforts to use the content as a tool in fighting stigma and discrimination and to challenge the prevailing stereotypes.
The meeting allowed them to collate and synthesize learnings and challenges from the programme, including security and safety for them and their interviewees and information sources. They shared stories of success in influencing perceptions, implementing innovative campaigns, creating dynamic conversation spaces, and real-life situation of LGBT+ community members and sex workers.
The key correspondents agreed that the programme has changed their perspectives and boosted their confidence to work as advocates for LGBT+ people and sex workers. They said they have become better writers who now understand the significance of positive media coverage, sensitivity in the use of language and maintaining the principle of “Do no harm” when developing narratives on key populations.
It may have been the last time that this cohort of key correspondents would meet as a group under the programme but a good number of them confirmed their continued interest in the initiative. They commissioned new stories and made plans to continue working with other stakeholders in their communities on similar issues. They shared ideas on how they could build on
the successes of the initiative and fill some of the vacuum that would be left.
KP-REACH is an advocacy programme being implemented by Hivos Southern Africa Hub with funding from the Global Fund to support initiatives to reduce stigma and discrimination against key populations in eight Southern African countries and improve their access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment. Positive Vibes Trust, a project consortium partner, implements the key correspondents initiative on behalf of the project.