The Programme

Programme overview

Throughout the programme there is a focus on the positive, what people can do, what works well and how they would like to live their lives in the future.  NAMWEZA encourages people to value themselves and others and to be supportive of others. The programme increases peoples’ well-being and their collaboration with others. The incidence of social and emotional stress and stigma, in those feeling marginalised by society (eg people living with HIV, alcohol dependence etc) will be reduced for individuals, their families and in the community.

The programme generates hope for the future, develops resilience and motivation, giving participants energy and a sense of future in their lives. The programme also focuses on supporting change agents to be able to make positive decisions and take relevant actions for themselves and others. It encourages people’s creativity and entrepreneurship and gives them more choice of how to support themselves and their families socially, emotionally and economically.

Appreciative approach

Positive attitudes, actions, and connections influence long-term change. The more positive all these elements are, the longer-lasting change will be. When people are connected as partners in pursuit of desired dreams and when they retain positive attitudes and act in the direction of the change they want, the change will happen. Through valuing people’s resources, skills, good intentions and contributions people will be strengthened and their dignity amplified.

An appreciative approach to behavioural change offers an optimistic and enabling process. NAMWEZA uses one of the foundational pillars of appreciative inquiry: the astonishing power of asking reflective and appreciative questions about what is working well in people’s life. This way of working creates self-confidence and pride as people come to experience themselves as more competent than they had realized.  The fact that competence is shared between people and that others witness this competence, creates friendships and reinforces the meaning of NAMWEZA: “Yes, together we can”. When people experience themselves as important and appreciated they become relaxed and their confidence grows.   A more joyful and focused state of mind builds hope for the future and limits the perception of self-stigma. When people experience that they are important and can make a difference they will also take responsibility for their own desired future. The appreciative, reflective and detailed questioning approach influences in a powerful way how people think about their past, present and potential future.

Through NAMWEZA’s appreciative approach we value people’s experiences, and even if tough, we look for their coping and survival skills. With these resources they are encouraged to imagine very different possibilities for their future.

The programme aims to foster positive self-reinforcing cycles in relationships between participants (“change agents”) and the people they meet. As the change agents share their skills and resources, they form close, trusting relationships, enabling them to act confidently, with dignity and pride. Increased self-confidence and improvement in one current situation leads to a circle that enhances improvement in another area which then leads to further improvements in the original area and so on.

NAMWEZA’s facilitators aim at creating a context for appreciation. The methods that are used throughout the programme are built on developing communication skills and ways of inquiring appreciatively, focusing on skills, abilities and values which will strengthen and develop personal resources.

Building on strengths

We all live in many stories simultaneously. Some are happy, others not so good, but if we can focus on good parts of our life and experiences, then many things will change. We begin to feel more resourceful and feel better about ourselves. In NAMWEZA it is important to enable people to experience their potential and to feel dignity when they work with their own development areas.

In NAMWEZA, we inquire curiously and in detail into life-giving stories in people’s lives, to help them to recognise their strengths. When a person becomes more aware of their own abilities, their self-esteem will grow. The skills and abilities they have, as well as the new abilities that emerge through the programme, will be used as additional resources in their lives. They will begin to see themselves as competent individuals with a lot of different skills and abilities. This will help them to see that they can solve issues in their lives with all these resources and they will start to take responsibility for their own and others’ futures, as well as the future of their community.

Researchers have found that there are three protective factors that have significant influence on a healthy development:

  • Possessing the skills necessary to succeed in both personal and work contexts
  • Developing meaningful relationships with family and friends
  • Having opportunities for meaningful participation in the family, school and community

NAMWEZA encourages the protective factors, of strengthened self-esteem and friendships and decreases the impact of risk factors such as stigma and depression. With more protective factors, people have a greater ability to resist and mitigate the effect of any risk factors they face.

Everyone faces hardships and disappointments in life in different ways, some more than others. While pain and adversity can be devastating, resiliency research points out that the more people respond to life’s problems with strength and courage the better they cope with adversity.

Internal and environmental protective factors have been identified that foster resilience.  Some of the actions that foster resilience and are nurtured in NAMWEZA are:

  • Using life skills that include good communication skills, decision making, assertiveness, impulse control, and envisioning and working towards a preferred way of living.
  • Displaying personal competence, or “being good at something”
  • Being self-motivated
  • Adopting a positive view of your personal future
  • Being sociable: including the ability to be a friend and form positive relationships
  • Giving of yourself in service to others or a cause


Programme content

NAMWEZA is a unique programme that supports change agents to learn and feel empowered.  The programme is built on participatory methods of learning-by-doing so that people engage in “bodily” learning as well as learning intellectually. As participants work with different appreciative methods and learning contexts, they are encouraged to role-play successful scenarios in their own way, so as to involve them in their own development and future.

Initially the NAMWEZA programme builds the social and emotional skills that help to support the participants, their families, neighbours and children in the community. Participants grow in self-esteem and confidence, as they become change agents for their social networks, encouraging healthy ways of living. In this context, the programme focuses on issues related to HIV that can support participants to address a range of relevant behaviour patterns, leading to a safer and more fulfilling lifestyle.

The NAMWEZA programme includes repeated exercises that are practised over the sessions. Each session builds on the previous one, so as to increase self-confidence and self-esteem as a way of exploring, highlighting and developing skills as resources within each theme of the sessions. The current NAMWEZA programme is designed for use as 10 sessions in a Public Health context, including in health clinics.

Ability spotting

Ability spotting exercises, which are done repeatedly in different formats in each session, are a way of raising people’s self-esteem by helping them to become more aware of abilities they themselves possess, including skills that they had not really noticed or appreciated. This is also a way of acknowledging each other and forming close, mutually respectful friendships through sharing what is working well in their lives.


Assertiveness is a communication style and strategy; it is distinguished from aggression and passivity.  Assertiveness can help people to deal with personal boundaries: their own and others’. A person communicating assertively is not afraid to speak his or her mind and speaks in a way that respects the personal boundaries of others. “I” statements are one example of how it is possible to voice one’s feelings and wishes from a personal position without expressing judgments about the other person or blaming them.

Assertiveness training can help a person to recognise when they are being used or manipulated for someone else’s benefit. Numbers of communication styles can be used to resist such treatment effectively without becoming aggressive. These emphasize the value of clear and calm communication as a means of establishing relationships in which everyone knows where they stand and where everyone involved can experience dignity.

Assertiveness training can also help those who have previously suffered in silence or been subjected to interpersonal violence, to speak up for themselves and make healthier choices for life.

Communication skills

People communicate in different ways, both verbal and nonverbal.

Successful communication could be described as the way people deliver a message successfully so that the receiver understands the view of the sender and the things the sender would like to be done. A sign of a successful communication is if the sender and the receiver understand each other and become curious about each other’s views. As the source of the message you have to be clear about: why you are communicating, how you are doing it and what you want to communicate and achieve with your communication.

The message is delivered to individuals even if you are communicating to a group. Individuals enter into the communication process with their own ideas, pre-assumptions and feelings that will undoubtedly influence the way they will understand the message and their response to it. To be a successful communicator, you have to consider both the message you would like to send and how different individuals might receive it.

The participants in NAMWEZA are supported to develop their communication skills through the whole programme, how they can communicate successfully and understand communication from others.  One of the important communication skills that the change agents will learn during the programme is the skill of questioning. They will develop their skills to ask questions that are inspired by imagination and curiosity, so others become more aware of themselves, their skills and who they would like to be. So called ‘circular questions’ develop reflectiveness, empathy and an awareness of the effect your behaviour can have on others. This questioning process encourages people to reflect and discover their resources and skills, good intentions and dreams, enabling people to take actions for the future, develop their relational and collaborative skills. These skills will help build healthier personal relationships and enhance HIV preventative behaviour.

“I” statements

“I” statements are a way of communicating. Self-confidence and “I’ statements are strongly linked to each other. An “I” statement is a way of expressing clearly your point of view about a situation. It includes an expression of first what you are observing (the facts as you see them), then how it is affecting you (how you are feeling), and then how you would like to see the situation different or changed (the wish or dream you have). The best “I” statement is free of specific demands and blame. It opens up the area for discussion and leaves the next move to the other person with their dignity protected.

“I” statements are a useful way of separating facts, feelings and wants in order to clarify what the issue really is.


Our futures, as represented by all our hopes and dreams, are determined by how we think and act now in the present.  It is, therefore, very helpful to get into the habit of dreaming or imagining our futures so that we do things now in the present to realise and reach the future we want. Imagining the future is more powerful when we create detailed images of how it looks and is being lived. The programme encourages participants to dream this preferred future life and how they got there.


A relaxation technique is any method, process or activity that helps a person to relax, to attain a state of increased calmness and to reduce levels of anxiety, stress or tension. Relaxation techniques can decrease muscle tension; lower the blood pressure and slow heart and breathing rates. Since the 1960s research has indicated strong correlations between chronic stress and physical and emotional ill-health.

There are various techniques to improve the state of relaxation. Some of the methods are performed alone, and some require another person. Some involve movement, while some focus on stillness.  In the relaxation exercises that are included in NAMWEZA, the relaxation technique is combined with visualising or guided fantasy, where people will feel relaxed and safe and able to start visualising their behaviour or how to approach others differently. The relaxation exercises in NAMWEZA open up new possibilities and ways of coping with challenging situations, knowing they are still in control of what they do, but it creates opportunities to try something in imagination.

Most sessions end with meditation or mindfulness so that people also become aware of how their bodies feel. This helps them to pick up on their own and others’ bodily and non-verbal communication, helping them to be more aware of another’s response. There is an integration and awareness of your body, which can be developed in mindfulness training. This is particularly useful when thinking about disclosure and potential partner violence.


Resilience in psychology is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and catastrophes.   Several factors are found to modify the negative effects of adverse life situations. Many studies show that the primary factor is to have relationships that provide care and support, create love and trust and offer encouragement both within and outside the family.  Other factors associated with resilience include the capacity to make realistic plans, having self-confidence and a positive self-image, developing communication skills and the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses. These attributes are repeatedly worked on, throughout the NAMWEZA programme.

Entrepreneurial skills

In a series of creative exercises of envisaging the future, participants are encouraged to dream about their potential future income-generating activities. This gives the opportunity to explore possible ways to earn an income through being asked appreciative questions about alternative options and to think through how this might be achieved.  In this way people become inspired to develop energised plans for the future.

Working in Peer Groups based on Age and Gender

Building on the widely tried and tested background experience of the “Stepping Stones” programme, Namweza works with participants in four separate peer groups, based on gender and age, each of whom has a facilitator of the same gender and a similar age. This process enables each group to develop a sense of group identity or “we-dentity”, based on similarities of outlook relating to their position in their society.

Copyright notice

The “Namweza” training programme on gender, HIV, communication and relationship skills and the accompanying facilitators’ guide were written in 2011 by Elspeth McAdam, Alice Welbourn, Charles Steinberg, Kicki Oljemark and Keith McAdam. The authors are joint copyright holders.