This month marks one year since Onward Chironda become an AVAC fellow for Zimbabwe. Onward who is a renowned youth leader and advocate for the Health, Rights, and well-being of young people in their diversity became a fellow in 2022.
By Staff Reporter
Onward is part of the fellowship among other fellows in South Africa, Uganda, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, and Kenya who are doing similar work in advocacy and engagement work to ensure that duty bearers in terms of governments and civil society actors are held accountable for guaranteeing the right to health for all.
Onward’s advocacy journey started in 2012 when he became the National Facilitator of the Young People’s Network on SRHR, HIV, and AIDS in Zimbabwe. He then after the fellowship focused on building his brainchild organization My Age Zimbabwe into a youth-led organization that is one of the leading organizations that pushed for gender equality, health, rights, and well-being of young people in Zimbabwe. Through the fellowship work, Onward envisions a world where all people are able and empowered to make well-informed, autonomous choices about their bodies without being criminalized, stigmatized, or excluded, so that they can enjoy the highest level of SRHR fulfillment and the lowest vulnerability to STIs, HIV, and other poor health outcomes.
Some of the wins Onward has scored through the fellowship include engaging religious leaders on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity resulting in building a movement of religious leaders that support the needs of Key Populations. He worked with religious leaders from diverse religious movements on camera to speak out on religion and sexuality and produced a digital conversation that went viral on a local social media influencers page, Zimcelebs.. On World AIDS Day 2022, Onward partnered with HIFIC to engage religious leaders and journalists through a Media Café which attracted journalists and religious leaders from Zimbabwe and Uganda respectively who spoke strongly on the need to end stigma and discrimination perpetrated against Key Populations.
With support from the Hosting Organisation GALZ, Onward managed to work with 20 KP-Led organizations building their capacity on PEPFAR and Global Fund processes, the process was timely as the organizations managed to come up with priorities for the COP23 processes and of the drafted priorities, 13 of them made it into the country communities COP. This will result in PEPFAR supporting more service providers to provide SRHR and HIV services for Key Populations, PEPFAR Implementing Partners must increase SOGIE / SC training for health services providers and shun any human rights violations in order to achieve targets, Increase funding for KP Led organizations to conduct campaigns and awareness of Intimate partner violence and GBV and strengthening of referral systems that target Sex Workers and the LGBTIQ+ community who use drugs including supporting the establishment of rehabilitation centers.
Onward currently is working on developing a KP-inclusive Dummy Minimum Services Standard Package for the Adolescence Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy and implementation plan which is being developed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. The win in this is making sure that all young people will have access to inclusive, non-judgemental, and human-centered SRHR and HIV prevention and management services in public Health Institutions.
“According to the World Health Organization, developing laws and policies that protect individuals’ sexuality, together with comprehensive sexuality education and stigma-free health services, greatly improves health and wellbeing, with a positive impact on HIV infection rates, mental health, and social equity. Our governments need to recognize policy, practice, and fund the central role sexual health and rights play in health equity, human rights, and development while ensuring the inclusion of these rights in all policies. The fellowship is an opportunity for me to be in the right spaces, join the right conversations and resonate on the need to achieve a healthy and fulfilling future for all people in their intersecting diversities.” Onward said.
The AVAC fellowship will end in September 2023, but the journey for Onward is not stopping as he has gained more knowledge and experience in advocacy work through mentorship and learning from other fellows. In his words, “After the fellowship, I am geared to take new challenges and responsibilities in terms of contributing to the advancement of the health, rights and wellbeing of all people around the world”