AWARD winning health journalist and HIV activist, Catherine Murombedzi has been elected National Chairperson for the Zimbabwe Women Living with HIV National Forum (ZWLWHNF).
By Michael Gwarisa
Murombedzi is deputised by 25 year old Phyllis Mavushe, a former USAID and PEPFAR DREAMS ambassador from Gweru who was unaminously elected vice chairperson.
I am humbled by the trust exhibited by women to have lead the Zimbabwe Women living with HIV national forum (ZWLWHNF). I salute you all. A dream actioned becomes a reality” said Murombedzi.
The idea from a few women in 2015 at ICASA came to fruition in 2017 when PAPWC-ZIM, country coordinator Tendayi Westerhof invited women at a forum in Kadoma to come together and build a movement of women living with HIV and adolescent girls to be each sisters keeper in the response to their health and rights issues.
“I hereby accept to work with all women and awaken that dream in every woman. Every woman at one time had a dream, let not that dream die, it needs reawakening and as ZWLWHNF that is part of over mission,” said Murombedzi.
The current situation where the country is currently on lockdown due to COVID19 did not deter the Bulawayo resolution of March 2020 to formalize the forum. Provinces went back home and embarked on the important ongoing exercises to recruit more women which culminated in the holding of provincial and national elections.
Mavushe, who deputises Murombedzi said, “I am humbled to be vice chairperson of this mega network ZWLWHNF and this role will help mentor me as a young women whilst I give my experience of amplifying voices if young women as they are most vulnerable to HIV”
Chipo Chitongo from Mashonaland East province, the newly elected national secretary of the forum who is well versed with the Global fund budgeting system and has worked with PLHIV as a MIPA officer under the behaviour Change Programme; said “Working with partners under the MoHCC, UNAIDS, UNWomen, National AIDS Council, SAfaids, ZAN , networks of people living with HIV and several others; we will strive for quality service of WLHIV nationally.
May 2020 ushered in a new chapter as Zimbabwe sets a milestone. As the national team, we promise to work for the good of women and foster unity.”
Ottilia Tasikani who participated in the Voices and Choices project ,a research which was done by women and for women living with HIV and AIDS under ICW; was elected treasurer. Other members of the ZWLWHNF National Steering Committee are Greater Ndlovu, Joyclene Makanyanga, Catherine Madondo, Junior Nyatsanga and Constance Tamayi who are all provincial chairpersons bringing in a wealth of experience and special skills.
A woman living with a disability and two young women have also been co-opted into the committee.
Tendayi Westerhof the outgoing National Chairperson said,“This is a first in many years in Zimbabwe as women living with HIV were not well coordinated. We are excited with the new National Steering Committee and the rest of the newly formed structures.
“Now we can collectively, amplify our voices and ensure that we are meaningfully engaged towards delivering effective programmes on the ground that benefit women and adolescent girls. This also makes is easier to ensure that women living with HIV participate in the national processes around the country’s road to the validation processes of the elimination-of-mother-to-child-tramissmission of HIV and syphilis.
“We owe our indebtedness to all our partners for investing their support in us; many women living with HIV are driven by passion and work as unpaid volunteers in different communities. It is high time we change the status quo and ensure that their efforts are not only recognized but also remunerated.
“Now it’s the time for stronger collaboration in the spirit of leaving no-one behind towards ensuring the best health outcomes for the women.”
Zimbabwe Women Living with HIV National Forum is coordinated by the Pan African Positive Women’s Coalition-Zimbabwe who is the secretariat, implementation and grant-making mechanism