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Kenya Red Cross rolls out cash transfer for Turkana girls

The Kenya Red Cross Cash Transfer project has come as a relief to vulnerable girls in Turkana County who used to engage in promiscuous lifestyle to earn a living.

A new report dubbed ‘evaluation of the cash plus project’s contribution to reducing vulnerability among Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) to HIV in Turkana County’ indicates that the initiative drastically reduced the number of girls in the local red lights districts.

The report released by Kenya Red Cross society states that cash transfers helped desperate girls from less fortunate backgrounds access basic needs like food and clothing which they used to get by offering themselves to men in exchange for favours.

“The survey results report a significant reduction in adolescent girls and young women who reported receiving money, gifts or favours in exchange for sex in last 12 months, from 35.7 percent at baseline to 7.8 percent at end of project,” the report states.

A Youth volunteer offer free condoms to youth during a past event in Lodwar Turkana county Picture by Peter Gitonga

“These would sometimes be provided by ‘sponsors’ or a boyfriend who would ask for sexual favours in return. This is evidence that the cash was effective in empowering AGYW to avoid transactional sex and thus reducing HIV risk.”

Turkana County Cash Transfer Task Force chairman and Regional National Aids Control Council Coordinator Bernard Mwaura says the project was successful. He added the overall objective of the Cash Plus project was to promote HIV risk reduction and scale up access to HIV prevention, care and treatment among AGYW in Turkana County.

“The project targeted 9,000 AGYW aged 10-24 years with cash transfers and dignity kits as structured interventions, combined with other behavioral and biomedical interventions to support HIV prevention and risk reduction. The project area encompassed the three sub-counties of Turkana Central, Turkana South and Turkana West,” said Mwaura.

The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) was the non-state Principal Recipient (PR) for the Global Fund HIV Grant, over the period January 2018 to June 2021.

In April 2021, KRCS commissioned a final evaluation of the Cash Plus Project for Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) in Turkana County.

Payment frequency and consistency of cash transfers and dignity kits distribution was relatively stable since project inception except for three isolated episodes of changes in payment schedules. Cash transfers were mainly used to purchase food, pay school fees and buy clothing, although some AGYW reported expenditure on healthcare, small business and savings.

There is a general consensus that the project appropriately attended to the specific needs of the target groups and stakeholders and is consistent with national/county policies as well as the strategies of the main donor and the implementing agencies.

The design of the project was aligned with the priorities of AGYW and the Turkana County health and education departments as well as strategic frameworks of other key stakeholders including the Global Fund, the PR, SRs and the national Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework (KASF) I and II.

In Turkana County results show a slight improvement on condom use with 85.5 percent of AGYW who had sex reporting that they always used a condom as compared to 84.75 percent at baseline.

On age-disparate sex, Turkana County results indicated a significant increase in the proportion of AGYW who reported having a sexual partner of the same age (from 3.83 percent at baseline to 47.20 percent at endline) and a decrease in AGYW with sexual partners who were older (from 89.7 percent at baseline to 51.2 percent at endline).

by Peter Gitonga

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