On September 7 The Forum for African Women Educationalists- Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) held a meeting to introduce and plan for its second phase of the project on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). FAWEZI seeks to Maximise the Opportunities for Girls and Young Women’s access to SRHR. This project comes as an augmentation to a previous project which addressed the SRHR issues for girls in and out of school.
FAWEZI gathered representatives from various Civil Organisations, Ministries and Government departments with the aim of finding out the already existing work, services and gaps in line with SRHR interventions.
Representatives of young women and junior parliamentarians shared on the challenges that they continue to face in relation to SRHR and also suggested means of solving them. Popular among the challenges raised by the adolescents were limited access to SRHR services, lack of youth friendly service centres, costs attached to the service provision, negative norms and culture , lack of recreational services and the general cloak of silence that surrounds sexual maturation issues in their homes.
FAWEZI advances the belief that change cannot occur among youth communities unless youth are involved at every level. Because of this, inception and stakeholder meetings have junior parliamentarians or other youth present whenever possible.
The representatives from the Ministry of Health and Education acknowledged the presence of challenges in dealing with young people and their SRHR issues. They indicated that there is need to capacitate service providers, educators and parents so that they are able to engage the youth with regard to the modern trends.
Access to uncontrolled internet was also identified as a reason why adolescents are equipped with inappropriate SRHR information. Other recommendations in dealing with SRHR issues also centered on packaging positive SRHR messages in youth friendly means like Google applications, whatsapp and television series which appeal to the youth.
In 2014 UNICEF released a data set that indicates that while Zimbabwe’s rates of child marriage are slightly lower than neighbouring countries, more than 1 in 3 children are still getting married before the age of eighteen. Around 1 in 25 women are married before they even reach their fifteenth birthday. The rates of child marriage are especially due to young women falling pregnant while they are still in school. In light of this, FAWEZI directs SRHR programs to both in and out of school girls. .
FAWEZI next looks forward to SRHR stakeholder meetings in Shamva. Since 1998 FAWEZI has worked all over Zimbabwe, promoting the education of the girl child and running a broad range of programs both in and out of schools to address disparities in education at multiple levels.