AT least six organizations that received small grants from the Her Voice Fund successfully implemented a number Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and capacity building initiatives in communities they were operating in despite the restrictions on movement and travel that characterised the year 2020 at the back of a raging COVID-19 pandemic.
By Michael Gwarisa
The HER Voice Fund grant was allocated by the Global Fund and set aside to support meaningful community engagements and leadership of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in a bid help reduce new HIV infections in the group through amplifying the voices and priorities of AGYW in order to inform the decisions that affect their lives.
In an interview with HealthTimes on the sidelines of the Her Voice Fund review meeting where grantees presented on their successes and challenges in implementing the projects, Her Voice Fund ambassador Tambudzai Magwenzi said they made inroads in implementing their projects in the face of numerous challenges.
The progress review meeting has been a success because we have been seeing that there have been AGYW gaining development skills especially that of leadership skills and research skills from the four work streams that we have been focusing on as Her Voice Fund grant which includes documenting stories, Monitoring and Accountability of policy frameworks and also research and data collection as well as influencing advocacy for AGYW in the HIV epidemic response in Zimbabwe.
“The success stories that we gained from the progress review meeting from the Her Voice Fund grantees in Zimbabwe was the civic engagement of the AGYW with parliamentarians and also having the opportunity of AGYW sharing their lived experiences and creating opportunities in the gaps that come out in the research findings that our girls and young women were conducting in the communities. We also had young women led social accountability for better health services through the health score card which has been one of the activities the AGYW have been doing under the Her Voice Fund and we had young people sharing their stories through story books,” said Magwenzi.
The HER Voice Fund is supporting six community-based organisations namely, YES Trust, ROOTS, Youth Engage, Hope for Adolescent and Youth, RNCYPT and Africaid. The HER Fund offers small grants to organizations in 13 priority countries, including Zimbabwe, where Global Fund is investing to contribute to the reduction of HIV incidence among AGYW.
The Hope for Adolescents and Youth was implementing their project in Hopely in Harare whereas Roots was working in Mazwoe, Youth Engage was in Seke and Chitunngwiza, Africaid was in Masvingo, Yes Trust in Umzingwane and Plumtree and RNCY was implementing in Chinhoyi.
Speaking at same event, Youth Engage Assistant Program Coordinator, Clara Chinoruma said they managed to engage girls and young women in hard-to-reach areas despite the restrictions.
“During the grant year, we managed to conduct Entry dialogues in Seke and Umguza and we also had Stakeholders meetings and managed to train AGYW Data collectors. We also collected data and managed to produce a documentary and a report.
“We however encountered some challenges on the way which range from delayed disbursement of funds, as a result, the time to implement the project was shortened. The COVID-19 limitations on travel also impacted us as well. The issue of connectivity was also an issue with mots our girls as some did not have gadgets to connect to the internet with,” said Clara.
Africaid on the other hand managed to produce a brilliant storybook which carries real life stories of girls and young women, detailing some of the challenges they encounter on a daily basis with regards to access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Service. The storybook was presented by Sungano Bondayi, the Communications person with Africaid.
Other grantees who were present include Roots Africa, Hope for Adolescents and Youth and the Regional Network of Children and Young People Trust (RNCYPT).
Hope for Adolescents and Youth Managing Director, Mitchell Ndlovu said they conducted a girls led research in Hopley and discovered that AGYW were disproportionately affected by the absence or lack of safe water as they usually bear the responsibility for collecting water, which is often very time consuming and arduous.
“There are left with little to no time for work, school or to take care of the family. AGYW are more vulnerable to abuse and attack to and from as well as at water points. AGYW need to take an active part in decision making in community water committees or consultations on infrastructure and service planning and development.
“Findings shows that most of the participants did not complete school and this can be alluded to the inability of parents to pay expensive school fees being charged by local colleges as well as lack of government owned primary and secondary schools,” said Ndlovu.