What We Do

We work with dedicated and innovative community leaders and organizations to build, strengthen, and
sustain the services and systems that care for children.

case managed and referred to social protection and HIV services to date

 receiving critical services annually across Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe

and young women supported by our layered interventions

Robert Hammond Photo - young Bantwana beneficiary in a classroom

Technical Overview

The convergence of poverty, HIV, and gender-based violence has deepened vulnerability for children, adolescents and families across Africa, especially adolescent girls. The Bantwana Initiative delivers comprehensive, integrated programming that addresses the complex realities and needs of these children and young people. Central to our approach is ensuring access to social and child protection resources; education services; and health, HIV/AIDS and post-abuse services.

Bantwana programs work closely with individuals, families, communities, and governments to respond to these critical needs, while addressing the structural drivers of HIV (including harmful gender norms and poverty) to increase resilience and decrease the risk for and impact of HIV/AIDS. In the process, we build the capacity of communities, civil society, and governments to coordinate and deliver integrated, comprehensive services to vulnerable children and their families within a community referral network and case management approach to strengthen access to health and social protection across the HIV continuum of care.

Building from the principles of human-centered design (HCD), Bantwana’s technical focus today incorporates both cross-cutting and specialized strategies that address:

  • Capacity development and systems strengthening and institutional capacity building
  • Inclusion, access, and quality of formal and alternative education options
  • Positive youth development, with an emphasis on adolescent girls and young women
  • Livelihoods, economic resilience, and work-readiness for young people and adults.

Across our programming, we utilize visually dynamic, and interactive communications technologies to bolster and improve training delivery and service tracking — which has proved especially relevant within the evolving COVID-19 pandemic context.

Smiling kids

OVC Core Service Delivery

We have an exemplary track record delivering integrated, comprehensive services that incorporate graduation models to move households with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) along a continuum towards reduced vulnerability, enhanced stability, and improved outcomes. Using strengths-based and family-centered approaches tailored to the local context, we build the capacity of NGOs, faith-based organizations, host governments, and community volunteer networks. We work closely with partners to optimize program entry points and improve coordination between community-based and facility-based partners. Our evidence-based tools enable purposeful targeting and segmentation to ensure we reach the most vulnerable with tailored interventions to increase resilience and health, and mitigate the impacts of HIV. Bantwana’s integrated service delivery models link beneficiaries to both health and social welfare services, responding to the comprehensive needs of OVC while increasing HIV diagnoses; improved HIV treatment adherence, retention, and viral suppression; and reduce the risk of new infection across multiple age cohorts.

Health screening

Health and HIV

HIV Prevention, Reproductive and Sexual Health Education: We are committed to developing and scaling-up solutions that address the multidimensional health needs of vulnerable children and their families, leveraging multiple entry points for health education and catalyzing access to services. We reach well over 100,000 adolescents annually with HIV prevention and SRH education. We leverage multiple platforms to engage beneficiaries through nationally delivered in-school curricula, out-of-school clubs, and groundbreaking social media and mobile education. Programming reaches in-and out-of-school students, including teen mothers, and is provided to caregivers through parenting interventions.

Access to Health and HIV Services: We deliver innovative mobile, multi-sectoral health initiatives in schools and communities, and strengthens partners’ and inter-ministerial coordination for increased access to care. We address the complex nature of the HIV epidemic across age bands and build local capacity for an integrated response. Bantwana has a proven track record delivering impactful, nationally-adopted models, engaging the most vulnerable communities in high HIV-burden countries. We train community volunteers and work alongside government health service providers to expand access to a range of health and HIV prevention, care and treatment services, with a focus on reaching vulnerable children, women and girls, boys and men, and strengthening linkages between community-based and clinic-based services. Through community-based models and system strengthening, we increase demand for and linkages to HIV testing services (HTS), retention on antiretroviral therapy (ART), enrollment in PMTCT groups, voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC), and mental health services. Our integrated national case management systems ensure coordination between health and social welfare sectors.

Case Management group photo

Systems Strengthening and Capacity Development

We partner closely with government and civil society counterparts from community to national levels to build national case management systems and improve coordination across social welfare/child protection, health, education ministries and stakeholders to improve service delivery to vulnerable children – working to strengthen the systems and coordinating networks that support vulnerable children.

Capacity Development: A cornerstone of our work is collaborative technical and organizational capacity development with local civil society organizations and government authorities. Through an emphasis on trust, partnership, and partner-identified priorities, we approach capacity development holistically and build relationships and systems that promote accountability, transparency, and local ownership. Interventions include a combination of technical training and support, organizational tools and strategy development, and the application of a range of service delivery and monitoring and learning tools, assessments, and training.

National Case Management Systems, Social Welfare and Child Protection Strengthening: We collaborate with departments of social welfare to develop and operationalize national case management systems that effectively and promptly link abused and neglected children to critically needed health and social protection and welfare services. Our partnership includes capacity development of the social welfare workforce, including government and civil society actors, in delivery of national frameworks, standard operating protocols and referral pathways, and train actors to use data for planning, delivering and tracking services to children. These systems reflect existing national policy priorities and infrastructure for long-term impact.

We have supported governments to adapt their national case management systems to electronic MIS.

Education Systems: We support ministries of education to deliver part-time and continuing/non-formal education to out-of-school children, including teen mothers, who are part of the millions of young people in Africa who have left the formal school system. With these same ministries and their teaching staff at the school level, we have designed and integrated Early Warning Systems, tools, and practices that help retain children in school and reduce dropout, by providing appropriate and timely support. A niche focus in the education sector is supporting ministries to introduce and integrate age-appropriate and engaging HIV-prevention education into national curricula; we are currently reaching over 100,000 students with HIV prevention and life skills education annually.

Systems Strengthening of Health, HIV Care and Treatment: We work with ministries of health at national, district, and sub-district levels to strengthen and integrate health and social welfare systems for coordinated HIV care.


Empowering Youth and Adolescent Girls

Our work with young populations in Bantwana’s countries of operation positively impacts many thousands of lives through timely, youth-centered, cross-cutting interventions that foster access and equity. Yet, the opportunity to harness what is often referred to as the “demographic dividend” comes with significant challenges: Education systems are already under strain and not able to effectively absorb growing student numbers; youth unemployment rates outstrip already high adult unemployment; and the share of NEETs (young people who are “Not in Education, Employment or Training) is expected to grow significantly in the next 20 – 30 years.

Every current project being implemented by Bantwana includes a direct and comprehensive focus on children and youth, spanning childhood, education, nutrition, health and developmental needs, and provides access to essential social services. Among the youth cohort (15 – 24, primarily), Bantwana has innovated and introduced a range of positive development strategies that promote youth-led and youth-centered development.

Pathways out of Poverty: Projects such as AYEDI (the African Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative) in Uganda, the Siyakha Girls Economic Empowerment regional initiative, and Waache Wasome in Tanzania, are prime examples of Positive Youth Development in practice. Through skill-building of male and female youth peer leaders and adult mentors, we equip young people with basic financial skills training, and offer a suite of pathways to increased economic resilience through access to continuing education, internships, apprenticeships, vocational training, entrepreneurial opportunities, income generating activities (IGAs), youth savings and lending associations, and more.

Life Skills, Gender Norms and Empowerment: Youth led structures such as Protect Our Youth Clubs, Child Rights Clubs, and Out-of-School Support (or Study) Groups (OSSGs) provide both physical and social “safe spaces” where young people can develop their agency and protective assets and build awareness of their rights. Over more than a decade, Bantwana has developed, refined, and adapted core curricula around topics identified as priorities by youth themselves. These include a range of communication skills (for communicating with peers, parents, and other adults); goal-setting and study-habits; basic financial understanding; identification and prevention of violence against children, including gender-based violence; and emotional and psychosocial support. Bantwana reaches well over 100,000 adolescents annually with protective assets, HIV prevention and life skills education, and is developing innovative applications for reaching adolescent girls through mobile technology.

HIV Mitigation: Under our DREAMS programs in various countries, we have reached thousands of in-school and out-of-school girls and teen mothers with mentor programs and access to education, protective assets and life skills, vocational training and job readiness, financial literacy, and linkages to HIV treatment and care and post-GBV services. Our programming links adolescents to services for sexual and reproductive health, HIV, ART, and GBV/post-abuse. We deliver age-appropriate parenting programs to enhance parent-child relationships and communication.

Education Retention: Bantwana’s Early Warning Systems prevent drop out and retain youth in school, through the use of simple case management and building teacher, parent, and community awareness and skills and effective student communication and support. The EWS model has been adapted to each context, and has been scaled nationally in Zimbabwe and in Tanzania, where it is integrated into the government’s online School Information System.

Gender-based Violence (GBV) and Social Protection: GBV is prevalent across our countries of operation, driven by a confluence of negative gender norms, poverty, and many entrenched inequities. Bantwana innovates both prevention and response programming, working at community-levels, in schools, and at national levels to change social norms and interrupt and respond to GBV and violence against children: social protection is a core focal area of Bantwana programming.

Anti GBV

Social Protection

Access to social protection services is key to the essential preventive and remedial support needed by especially vulnerable individuals and populations who are burdened by hunger, poverty, ill-health, violence, and abuse of basic human rights. Improving both the quality and coordination of services in resource-poor contexts requires a combination of systems strengthening, skill building, commitment, partnership with governments, and community voice – for immediate and sustainable results. Bantwana’s approach to social protection addresses the needs of children and youth– especially girls and young women — in high HIV-burden contexts through partnership approaches with families, educators, community stakeholders, and government service-delivery and policy staff.

Case Management

National Case Management and Information Systems for Child Protection: We are a recognized leader in case management, with expertise supporting emerging, established, and mature case management systems in low resource and high HIV-prevalence settings. We have partnered with multiple host governments to develop robust national child protection case management systems aligned to country policy. These systems harmonize and operationalize national child protection policy, concretize standard operating procedures, referral pathways and frameworks. We have supported several governments to transition to digital child protection information systems (CPIMS).

Social Workforce Strengthening: Working from existing structures and systems, we build the capacity of social welfare cadres and community volunteer networks in case management as a pillar of integrated OVC service delivery, as well as a core approach to national systems strengthening of the social welfare workforce. Typically, capacity assessments for social welfare departments establish a foundation from which to strategically strengthen skills of the social welfare workforce and develop needed case management guidelines, frameworks, and standard protocols. We develop effective case conferencing mechanisms to improve multi-sectoral coordination between the community-based social welfare workforce and health facility-based staff, and link protection services to schools through early warning systems.

Learn more about our case management model, and our systems strengthening approaches for the social welfare workforce.

Gender-Based Violence (GBV)

Protective Assets and Norms Change: We equip women and adolescent girls with social and protective assets and life skills related to GBV, HIV, and sexual and reproductive health to reduce their risk of violence, empower them to navigate harmful gender norms, and promote health-seeking behaviors. We simultaneously engage men as partners in violence prevention and social norms change. We work at the community level to foster dialogue around GBV and social norms change, expand women’s support networks and knowledge of their rights, and strengthen reporting mechanisms. We help teachers, school officials, parents, and community members to recognize and address harmful social norms and school practices that perpetuate GBV.

GBV Post-Abuse Response: Our GBV response interventions connect survivors to post-exposure services and medical, legal, and counseling support through a range of platforms. Establishing effective post-abuse case management mechanisms helps ensure access to services, drop-in centers, emergency shelters, and a transport voucher system. An innovative one-stop mobile service delivery approach brings many of these services to the doorstep of communities while serving as an entry point for referrals.

Selling detergent within team

Livelihoods and Economic Resilience

Our economic resilience models work with vulnerable adolescents, caregivers and households, incorporating asset-building through community managed savings and lending activities; skill-building in production, marketing, and business techniques for self-employment, microenterprise development and income generating activities; job-readiness and workforce competencies to access apprenticeships and employment; and market and resource linkages facilitation.

Savings, Lending, and Capital Accumulation: We have adapted village savings and loan models (VSLAs) as a means to strengthen the ability of parents and caregivers to meet their children’s needs, including school costs, transport fees to health clinics, and nutritious food. We leverage these savings and loans clubs not only to provide financial literacy and promote entrepreneurship, but also as a platform to provide inputs such as parenting skills, GBV and HIV prevention knowledge, and norms change around girls’ education and women’s and children’s rights. All savings and loan interventions are highly contextualized to the needs and practices of the target population and empower participants to increase economic independence and strengthen social support networks. A unique and highly successful adaptation in Tanzania and elsewhere has been the requirement of group Education Funds, which are used to support vulnerable children in the community with basics such as school uniforms, books, hygiene supplies, etc. to mitigate some of the drivers of potential school dropout. Where possible, we transition mature groups to digital VSLAs, using DreamSave in partnership with DreamStart Labs, to streamline and strengthen group accounting and connect our clients to formal financial resources, help them to develop credit, and address the digital and gender divide.

Adolescent Savings: We also support modified savings models for vulnerable adolescents, including those running their own businesses or engaged in formal employment. The aim is to build the financial literacy of youth and inculcate a savings habit that has the long-term benefit of building up a financial cushion to help meet planned or unforeseen needs.

Work Readiness: Our work readiness programs are designed to prepare youth for employment opportunities by developing the necessary skills and networks and linking them to companies for internships and apprenticeships. Our programs equip youth with an integrated package of career guidance, goal setting, life skills, protective assets, financial and entrepreneurial literacy, and communication skills to prepare them to find decent work in sub-Saharan Africa’s emerging economies. In several countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, Bantwana teams have worked to build networks and program recognition that promote opportunities for internships or apprenticeships that improve young people’s employability prospects — and also increase youth awareness of specific life and career pathways.

Our PEPFAR-endorsed, market-based Siyakha Girls model is designed to strengthen the economic resilience of vulnerable AGYW (ages 15-24) through financial literacy and savings groups and vocational training and mentored internships in high growth sectors, layered with social asset building and linkages to essential health and social services. Siyahka Girls has been implemented by Bantwana and other NGOs in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa.

Children responding in class


In-School and Out-of-School Pathways

In collaboration with ministries and departments of education as well as school administrators and teachers, we help design, build, and implement actionable systems and strategies in the following areas:

Part-time and Continuing Education: Offering accessible, practical education alternatives is essential to addressing the human economic, health, and social vulnerabilities of millions of out-of-school children and youth in Africa, who have left the formal school system. Through both DREAMS and Education Sector programming, we deliver evidence-based and mentored interventions that provide critical supports needed by out-of-school youth to get them back on a formal schooling track or help them embark on continuing education pathways. Trained adult and peer mentors and structured group activities in safe spaces lend support to youth and teen mothers, and liaise and advocate with caregivers and teachers, and support the re-matriculation of youth into the formal school system where possible.

Early Warning Systems: Across East and Southern Africa, we have piloted and rolled out Early Warning Systems to help retain children in school and reduce school drop-out. Based on the core ABC metrics (Attendance, Behavior, Coursework), our EWS model identifies students at risk of dropping out and provides robust case management and response protocols at school, caregiver, and community levels to retain children in school. Our Zimbabwe EWS has been adopted and scaled nationally by the Ministry of Education. In Tanzania, our EWS has been integrated into the government’s national online School Information System. We are currently developing an innovative mobile-based EWS in Tanzania to identify and support at-risk secondary school students, and supporting the government of Zambia to pilot and scale their own EWS.

HIV Education: In several countries, our work with education authorities and NGOs has focused on developing syllabi and curricula to deliver national, HIV prevention education in secondary schools, reaching 100,000 students annually. We support National Curriculum Centers and in-service teacher training, as well as education management information systems (EMIS) to monitor quality delivery.

Early Childhood Development and Stimulation

Our early childhood development (ECD) programming is fully aligned with the Nurturing Care Framework launched at the 71st World Health Assembly in 2018. We deliver learner-centered, responsive, and emotionally supportive programming to the hardest to reach group — MVC or most vulnerable children. With a special focus on families and communities as platforms, we educate and empower local volunteers and caregivers to provide nurturing care. Our ECD model further aligns with emerging best practices relative to place-based education, and connects ECD learning to communities through key partnerships.

Brain development is crucial during the first 1,000 days of life, and babies born in extreme poverty are at risk of disrupted development due to poor nutrition and under-stimulation. We offer an evidence-based community-rooted, and integrated package to HIV-impacted mothers and babies, as well as teen mothers, who are among the most vulnerable populations in Africa. Skills and knowledge on early childhood stimulation (ECS) and nutrition enhance parenting capacities, while economic strengthening initiatives (which incorporate drought-resistant permaculture gardens and access to nutritional supplementation for babies through savings and loan associations) empower these mothers economically. Mobile platforms reinforce ECS trainings and information, through a menu of interactive voice response (IVR) messages to mothers.

Success Story

Gimbi is a Protect Our Youth Club member from Baray Secondary School in Karatu District Council. When in Form II, she noticed that her father started processing her school transfer to Singida Region in Central Tanzania. His intention was to marry her off to an unknown person in Singida, where he had already negotiated a bride price of 40 heads of cattle. Using skills gained from POY Club sessions to speak up for herself, for her education and her rights — Gimbi bravely reported the matter to the Head of School, who stopped the transfer immediately.

To learn more about Gimbi’s story, read our blog or watch this video.

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