OVER the years, wide spread research has shown that working with, men and boys as well as women and girls leads to gender equality and contributes significantly to achieving health and development goals.
By Michael Gwarisa
According to evidence gathered by the United Population Fund (UNFPA), it has been proven that working towards gender equality by empowering women and engaging men is fundamental to achieving a host of development outcomes, including reducing poverty, improving health and addressing other population concerns. Men’s and boys’ relationships with women and girls can support or impede improved health and development outcomes .
In Zimbabwe organisations such as the Zimbabwe Community Health Intervention Research (ZICHIRE) have since tailored their programming around this evidence and commenced working with boys in Dzivarasekwa Harare, and remote parts of the country through the Brotha2Brother program to promote gender equality as well as enhance their understanding of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and reproductive rights.
One of the young persons who has benefited from ZICHIRE’s Brother2Brother program is 18 year old Antonio Bill, a footballer who through the ZICHIRE Brother2Brother platform was linked to the National Junior Football team and is now a high flyer in the Zimbabwe Young Warriors team that travelled to South Africa for the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) zonal qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.
Through the Brotha2Brotha, not only have I been helped with my football career, I have also learnt how to respect girls and women as well to shun Gender Based Violence (GBV). The program has also taught us the advantages of staying away from drugs and alcohol, as well as the dangers of engaging in sex as young boys as it may result in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) HIV and even unwanted pregnancies,” said Antonio during an Interview with HealthTimes.
Antonio is amongst the numerous boys ZICHIRE has linked to great teams. Some of the boys have secured spots in prestigious clubs while some have gone for trials at great clubs such as Cranborne Bullets and Ngezi Platinum and others. The Brotha2Brotha program also gives boys from hard to reach and remote areas an opportunity to display their talent and also get linked to good clubs.
According to ZiCHIRe Director, Walter Chikanya, the Brotha2Brotha initiative had identified football as a critical tool for keeping the boys busy as well as a platform to teach them about Gender Based Violence and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. Community activities such as the tournament today have received support from partners such as UNFPA, Dutch Embassy and National AIDS council.
[pullquote]“As you can see from here, the boys have been playing football since morning and they are tired now. Idleness makes boys do all sorts of things such as drug abuse or even engage in risky sexual behaviour. After playing football like this, chances of them going home and engaging in all sorts of trouble are very slim.[/pullquote]
“Through football, we are trying to ensure that they aim to become great players and for them to do so, they need to be in good health, free of drugs and diseases. We are aiming to build responsible boys and young men who respect their female counterparts and shun gender-based violence, alcohol and drug abuse. We are also taking this opportunity to sensitise the boys about COVID-19,” said Chikanya.
Chikanya also added that it had been discovered that poverty was a high contributor to GBV but through creating opportunities for the young people, some were already reaping economic benefits from playing professional football, hence reducing chances of them being violent towards women and girls.
He added that they also make use of Peer Educators who work daily with the boys at community level.
The Peer Educators work with groups of 25 boys each at any given time to ensure they do community follow-ups and to get updates before submitting reports to ZiCHIRe.
ZiCHIRe has also trained football coaches to effectively train and deliver SRHR and GBV messages to the boys whenever they meet for either training or tournament sessions. One of the Coaches who has been capacitated to provide SRHR and GBV training to the boys is Wonder Kapinda who Coaches Dzivarasekwa Academy.
“I am now 32 years and I still play professional football; I play for Black Rhinos football club. The message I try to drive through is that if one wants to be a great footballer, he should deist from taking drugs and engaging in risky sexual behaviour. Look at me, I am now 32 but I still play football, I am still fit. You can’t get to my age as a footballer if you contract Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), get sick or as a drug addict.
“We also teach our boys about Antiretroviral drugs adherence so that they can also talk to their families and relatives on the importance of adherence,” said Kapinda.
Meanwhile, Obey Mukorera, ZiCHIRe Programmes Manager said whenever the football teams break away, they capitalise on the time to teach the young people various issues ranging from SRH, GBV, STIS, correct and consistent condom use amongst other issues.