On 28th February 2022, we kicked off Girls Choose, a project aiming to create a conducive environment for adolescents and young people in their diversity—with specific emphasis on girls and young women in Zimbabwe—to access Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights/services (SRHRs) and HIV related information freely and safely.
In Zimbabwe, the government want to pass the Private Voluntary Organizations Bill, which could, unfortunately, lead to the shrinking of civil society space and opportunities for youth engagement. This bill would force organizations to register as a POV, and 60% of their leadership would be allocated to the government. This is a part of an effort to stop civil society organizations from engaging in ‘politics’ (a very broad category), but this is seen as being defined as any activity which goes against the government. In Zimbabwe, an economic meltdown has resulted in one of the world’s highest rates of inflation.
Girls Choose is the flagship model of our partners My Age Zimbabwe (MAZ), where every year they train over 200 young women, girls, and young men. The project we are beginning now cements the work they have been doing over the past five years, and importantly, will further solidify MAZ’s work with important stakeholders in the region. Girls Choose helps capacitate young people by making them champions for SRHR and HIV, these will be also key in referring young people for services including HIV testing and counselling, STI treatment and related services!
During our kick-off meeting, we went through our shared project objectives, how we hope to achieve lasting change and which local actors we want to activate towards building confidence and awareness around sexual health among youth. With strategic partnerships with the Ministry of Health, Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council and National Aids Council, My Age Zimbabwe will aim to actively engage young people in and out of school clubs, as well as mobilize participants for assemblies.
After stating that government programming is not enough to save communities in Zimbabwe, where mining towns and famine areas act as hotspots for sexually transmitted infections, Onward from MAZ said:
‘As young people, we best know to engage in our peers. We know how to mobilise the community and engage the community effectively’.
After kick-off Girls Choose, we are looking forward to continuing the great work done by MAZ over our next year of collaboration.
Want to know more about Girls Choose? Then check out the project here: