Siti Kailene Mohd Jazlan Kashfi is a 24-year-old activist for reproductive health. As the current vice president for the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council (BDAC), she is passionate about building awareness for about HIV/AIDS and social issues, through the ‘HAPPY’ programme in schools.
Siti and the BDAC have been able to find new ways to engage youth on the topic while still respecting the prevailing cultural and religious norms in Brunei.
Here’s our recent interview with Siti.
Hi Siti, tell us more about the programme you lead – the HIV Awareness for Peers and Youth (HAPPY).
HAPPY is one of the awareness programmes conducted by the BDAC, a non-profit organisation established in 2000. Our main objective is to raise awareness about HIV & AIDS in Brunei.
The goal of the programme is to educate those who are not aware of HIV and other STDs, teenage pregnancies and, to also talk about other social issues affecting the lives of young people.
BDAC uses multiple approaches to reach its objectives – through youth work and training, community participation, outreach programmes, voluntary work, media coverage and collaboration with other agencies.
The average student attendance in the programme is about 80 to 120 students per session. Under the programme, we visit 25 schools and higher education institutions throughout Brunei annually. We’re glad to say that HAPPY has been conducted over 100 times and reached out to 6,000 young people.
How did you get involved at this level of activism in the first place?
The rising number of cases of HIV and unplanned pregnancies in Brunei is a cause for concern. It could lead to increased medical costs, social stigma and mental health issues.
To learn more about BDAC, you can reach out to them on their email at firstname.lastname@example.org
As of December 2017, there are a total of 202 cases of HIV/AIDS registered in Brunei with 27 new cases recorded in 2017 along with most of the cases involving people in their twenties.
I believe that the best method of prevention is through education for the young at the grassroots level.
How did you overcome the challenges with the HAPPY programme?
Our programme is an intellectual platform for young people to build awareness of HIV/AIDS. The way we approach the younger generation on the subject of HIV/AIDS needs to be more engaging to be able to have fruitful conversations that benefit both young people and their communities.
Being progressive means redefining limitations into opportunities to create a better future for yourself, the community and the country. And there should be no boundaries as to what that can be.
How can the local community get involved and help with the cause?
I think that the local community can help by recognising and empowering young people so that they can engage with them. I believe that when young people are given the correct platform to speak their minds, the community can connect with them.