A 'stepping stone' program was piloted in Honiara and addresses various issues relating to the HIV and AIDS virus.

The main purpose of the workshop is to pilot stepping stones in urban setting and use lesson learnt as key learning initiatives for stepping stones to roll out in the country, and to provide hands on support in stepping stone field work for stepping stone facilitators with the guide of the Pacific manual.

The workshop was facilitated by all trained stepping stone facilitators: Henry Oti, Lorraine Satorara, Helena Tomasi, Nelly Hano, Ben Angoa, Rose Tala and Julia Fationo.

Speaking to Solomon Times, HIV Program Officer Oxfam Solomon Islands, Mrs. Julia Fationo said that the workshop attracted 35 participants who are youths between the age of 15 to 25 yrs mainly living in the sub-urban areas like Tuvaruhu, Ikafo, Varacreek and Hapai

"The program was done at the Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood coordinated by Oxfam under the Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Project," Mrs. Fationo said.

Participants were guided thru on 18 modules, which cover topics on promotion of sexual reproductive health, sexuality, gender, gender violence, communications and relationship skills.

"We see the stepping stone approach as effective because it provides opportunities for participants to examine their values and attitudes towards gender and relationships, to build on their knowledge on aspects of sexuality, HIV and STIs and to develop skills to help them communicate with others. This includes their partners, fathers, mothers or friends," Mrs. Fationo explained.

She added that the stepping stone approach is also to ensure that these people know exactly what they want.

The workshops are based on participatory learning approaches "as we all know that we learn better when we have knowledge affirmed and are able to discuss and decide things independently rather than receiving lectures."

Stepping stones was widely used in the African communities, which has helped decrease the spread of HIV epidemic, Mrs. Fationo informed Solomon Times.

With this approach, urban youths were given the opportunity to share, identify common problems and solutions young people face daily through group discussions, role plays, drawing, body images and energizers.