Youth Engage Zimbabwe, in partnership with her Her Voice Fund and Zimbabwe Community Health Intervention Research Health (ZiCHIRe), have kick-started HIV and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) training for Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW).
By Patricia Mashiri
The inaugural training was held in Harare South where a total 70 AGYW aged between 15 to 27 were trained while more other trainings are already lined up for other parts of the country.The trainings are meant to increase utilization of equitable SRHR and HIV services by vulnerable AGYW, improve delivery of quality, gender responsive, inclusive care and support in a bid address priority SRHR needs of adolescents as well as advocating for evidenced based SRHR services and policies.
Speaking during the AGYW training, Sophia Mukasa Monico, the UNAIDS Country Director said this was a great initiative by Youth Engage as it will increase awareness on SRHR knowledge and HIV information to the girl child as they are the most vulnerable group.
We realized that when we look at UN aids global statistics that came out this year the number of new infections among young girls has gone up and we attribute the rise in new infections among young girls to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are scaling up mass communication and education around HIV/AIDS.
“We sincerely believe that education is the vaccine to AIDS and we want to make sure that every adolescent child has the right information to ensure that they protect themselves from HIV, ensure that they success treatment in case they are HIV infected because quite a number got infected during the lockdown. Making sure that they don’t just take the medicine but stick to the medicine and make sure that the viral load goes down and further contributes to the prevention and avoid new infections,” she said.
A recent UNAIDS report notes that there were approximately 37.6 million people across the globe living with HIV in 2020 and of those statistics, 1.7 million were children aged 0-15. It also revealed that 53% of people living with HIV are women and children.
The training was also graced by Tongai Mnangagwa, the Member of Parliament Harare South who applauded the program saying it gives girls a chance to learn about SRHR and how to access HIV services from professionally qualified people.
“We are working with Youth Engage which gives a platform to meet with different children. Ordinarily we do not meet with these kids when we do our political rallies. These kids have their own needs, hence they need their own platforms to meet and get the right knowledge about their needs.
“We intend to have more platforms like these. Today we had AGYW and hopefully next time we will have another one with boys only so that they all have the chance to learn information they can not get from their parents. We have many cases of child marriages, early pregnancies and gender-based violence unfortunately most of these cases go unreported but we encourage people to report these cases,” said Hon Mnangagwa.
Meanwhile, Clara Chinoruma, Programs Officer Youth Engage said their aim was to reach out to AGYWs in the country to maximize their potential through health and ensure that they will be able to protect themselves from high risk infections such as HIV, STIs and from vulnerabilities such as gender based violence.
“We have been creating a safe space where AGYW come together and deliberate on issues happening in their communities and some issues affecting them. We have been working from girls from ages 15-27 because they are the most vulnerable age group when it comes to HIV infections. Puberty happens and it comes with a lot of experimenting. We have managed to train 70 AGYW today hoping they will also reach to others using the web effect. Its going to be a continuous process until we achieve what we want,” said Chinoruma.
Obey Mukorera, the Programs Officer ZiCHIRe, said, “…we have got a very indepth understanding of community mobilization because we have been working in this area since 2007 up to now. In terms of how we mobilize for this particular event worked with community volunteers for behaviour change. These volunteers are the ones who understand better what the community is all about and the community structures with the help of us as officers. They helped us mobilize the girls of the ages 15-27 and it became easier for us.”