by Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda
The international development community is abuzz at the moment with a lot of interesting talk and ideas about where we are headed with the post 2015 agenda, where we stand in relation to the MDGs and how far we have progressed towards the ICPD goals. Against this backdrop, sexuality, HIV and young people’s lives are on my mind.
I am a firm believer that the time has come for a change in the narrative of Africa that we hear and see, and which is presented to us time and time again. I see windows of opportunity and possibilities for change all around us. ‘Africa rising’ is the favourite expression of people in the business world at the moment. The population experts are telling us about another wave of change – a youth bulge and the promise of a demographic dividend – which could put some African countries on the same growth path as China and India.
Who are we talking about? In East and Southern Africa, it’s about the future of 158 million adolescents and young people aged 10-24, that’s 1/3 of the region’s population. To capitalise on this wave of opportunity, we need to find a way of addressing some of the education and health challenges in our path. The hard facts are that an estimated 50 new HIV infections occur every hour amongst young people aged 15-24 and the majority of new infections are amongst young women.
What’s going to change this picture, and change it now? Part of the answer lies in the knowledge and skills which adolescents and young people need to prepare themselves for adulthood, being a parent, being a global citizen, the world of work and life in the 21st century. Here is the challenge: less than 40% of young people in the region have adequate HIV prevention knowledge. We need a rethink about what’s happening in our homes, schools and communities when it comes to preparing young people for adulthood. This means we need to talk about sexuality, about the realities of young people’s lives, their education and sexual and reproductive health needs - and the barriers they face. Young people have made their demands very clear, most recently at an Africa wide ICPD+20 review meeting in Addis Ababa – comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.
What do we need to see happening in schools and classrooms? For starters we need to scale up good quality CSE available as widely as possible, starting at primary school. Good quality means it must cover sexuality, gender equality, relationships and sexual and reproductive rights, as well as being accurate, age-appropriate, delivered by well trained teachers, culturally sensitive and supported in and out of schools. In the past few years, the scientific evidence of what works and what doesn’t work in sexuality education has grown dramatically. So let’s get some of the myths out the way: sexuality education does not lead to early sexual activity – in fact it helps to delay the initiation of sexual activity; it increases condom use and contraception, reduces the number of sexual partners and it reduces sexual risk-taking. When sexuality education includes a strong focus on rights and gender, greater benefits are possible. Gender inequality, and prevailing gender norms, increase the vulnerability of girls and women to unintended pregnancy, HIV and other STIs, and limit their access to critical health services.
We need to trust and support teachers and schools in this task and we need to support this education process at home and in the community – and that’s a plea especially to leaders in our faith-based communities. However, education by itself is not enough - we need sexuality education backed by accessible, affordable and effective health services and commodities for young people. Take note - that also includes an estimated 2, 6 million young people living with HIV, who have sexual and reproductive health needs like any other young person and who also want lasting relationships, families and a healthy future. Change is on the horizon – a number of countries in the region have already recognised the need for the shift in policy, how resources are prioritised and how teaching and learning on HIV and sexuality education takes place, now we need that movement to grow.
Across the region, discussions have been taking place for the past few months between government leaders, civil society and stakeholders about the need for a new approach to this challenge. In early December, these leaders, particularly ministers of health and education, will gather on the eve of the regional AIDS conference ICASA 2013 in Cape Town to take the first steps towards this goal for the region – a political commitment on sexuality education and sexual and reproductive services for adolescents and young people. As someone entrusted with the leadership of an organisation of young women, with a strong basis in faith, I see this as a major opportunity for change in the region and a way of ensuring a better future for generations of girls and young women still to come. Education and health leaders need to act boldly and work together on a common agenda for adolescents and young people. It’s time to act now!
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is General Secretary of World YWCA, a human rights lawyer and a member of the High-Level Group on the Eastern and Southern Africa Ministerial Commitment process.
For more information on the Ministerial Commitment process, see:www.youngpeopletoday.net
We have been unusually quiet in the last few months. We continued though with our deep actions to provide support to children and young people living with HIV in Murewa. We had a few hiccups with on this site, and at the same time we were going through our 7 year strategic planning and annual audit. Hooray, we have been able to complete all the three in time for our World AIDS Day Message.
As a Trust, we were founded with the core mission of giving life opportunities to young people, especially though in difficult situations, including children living with or affected by HIV as well as other orphans and vulnerable children. Your support over the years have enabled us to kep the promise as we continue to send almost 70 children living with HIV to school; and have enabled them to be continously on medicine.
We are thrilled that in the last five years of our work, we have managed to have all the children in our programme continue with their education, as we provided school fees. No drop Out. Some of those who finished their O levels had moved on to either go with their education or retake exams for those who would have failed to meet the grades. We have provided some short term internship opportunities as a way of bridging for some of the children.
Kensington's story is telling. He was the best student at O levels at Chipinda Secondary school this last year. He is from Bere village. Due to social and family circumstances, he was unable to proceed to A level or college. He stayed at home until Rozaria Memorial Trust, which had provided him with treatement and educaion support was alerted by the community members that "the bright student, whom you medicines is now just sitting at home, because he has no money to continue with education". We knew immediately that we had to do something because it was not enough that Kensington was on medicine, we helped him again to enroll for A levels and go back to school.
The work of Rozaria Memorial Trust has been featured on the Zimbabwe newspapers several times. http://www.kwayedza.co.zw/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=25195:mukupedza-rusarura-mune-kukunda&catid=43:nhau-dzeutano&Itemid=135#.UpoF68RDtqU
On this World AIDS Day, Rozaria Memorial Trust commits to its promise, working now in almost 40 villages in the 3 Wards of Murewa. The Trust is working with 2 community health centres and Murewa District Hospital, collaborating directly with 10 schools in the district. We continue to step up support to the communities and especially to the young girls, We have initiated the establishment of girls clubs to discuss sexual and reproductive health issues at Magaya, Zhombwe, Mazeyanike, Chitate and Chipinda primary schools. Prevention is as important as treatment.
Thank you for your continued generosity as you work with us in providing treatment, education and support to children living with and affected by HIV in Murewa.
As we start this year, 2013, on behalf of Rozaria Memorial Trust Board, staff, volunteers as well as the children and parents in our programme, we want to extend our greatest appreciation to you for the support in 2012. Many of you gave us one-off gifts and others are able to provide recurrent gifts, and again some of you have reached out to your friends, families and networks to support our work. We value deeply this generosity, and we invite you to continue with this support in 2013 and beyond.
In the last 2 years, we have had amazing experiences with some of the children through your support. For instance, A. Chitate was born with HIV in 2010, and immediately her mother passed away. Mbuya Chitate, A.'s grandmother approached us for support, and ever since we have worked with Murewa District hospital to ensure that Anesu had access to Anti-Retroviral Therapy. We enabled granny Chitate to join a support group and learnt abour ART Literacy and compliance. We provided some food supplements and ongoing pyschosocial support to the family. In a few months we will be celebrating A.'s 3rd birthday and everyone is looking forward to A.'s education and bright future. You all made it possible with your gifts.
Belinda Musendo is another young woman living with HIV who has been in our programme. When she finished her A Levels, where we were providing school fees subsidy, Belinda was able to join us for a year as an intern providing peer education to other young people living with HIV. She encouraged other young boys and girls to go get tests; to be in compliance with their ART medication and be active act school. Today Belinda has moved from Murewa, and is pursuing further studies and opportunities in Harare. This again is an example of how as a Trust we help young people living with HIV to access both health and education and thereby have a stronger foundation for their lives.
We have reached our target of having 100 children living with HIV in school. The majority of these children are in primary school and the rest in secondary school. Our aim is to ensure that this children do remain in school, remain on treatment and are able to transition with hope and skills into the future. As we work with these children collaborating with the 9 schools and 4 health centres, we continue to enrol more children living with HIV in our programmes. We continue to grow the collaboration with government and other stakeholders in this efforts.
It is with this reality that we embrace 2013. We have the courage and the commitment to continue to offer support to our children living with HIV. We invite you to share this journey with us, a gift of any amount, a word to your friend, is in itself signficant and lasting in its impact.
I do wish you the best in 2013, and we commit to continue to share information and updates with all of you.
One of the very few female village heads in Zimbabwe, Daisy Chidziva of Chidziva Village under Chief Zihute in Murehwa, has spoken out against cultural practises that promote gender based violence.
In an interview with The Zimbabwean on the side-lines of a workshop organized by Rozaria Memorial Trust on the implications of HIV on domestic violence, Sabhuku Chidziva said some traditional cultural practices encourage gender based violence.
“We have had various traditions that have encouraged gender based violence instead of building us as a community. This includes the dominance of men over women. In this way men end up procrastinating which then hurts their partners emotionally and physically by contracting HIV, that’s when we have cases of a wife pouring hot water on their husband,” she said.
The village head, who was crowned after all adult males in her family had died, said communication was vital and our tradition blocks that as it only gave the voice to males.
“Our tradition gives much more power and voice to males over female. This blocks the two-way communication set up which we have just learnt is so vital. If a woman is forbidden to speak then she will suffer in silence to the point that women cannot even speak to their husbands about sex. So in the end they look for it outside the marriage, risking contraction of HIV,” said Chidziva.
She urged traditional leaders to appoint female village heads not only in the event of death but according to performance.
“I am happy to be one of the few female village heads but it I would be much happier if our traditional leaders made it possible for women to be appointed into this position not only in the event of death but according to merit,” she said.
The event was graced by different village heads, members of the communities surround Chitate primary and various stakeholders including delegates from the Ministry of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development and the Murehwa District Health Counsellor Edwin Muchairi.
Popular poet Allen Chitsanzara performed two poems - Bhutsu kuRoots, which encourages people to remember where they came from, and Katswe, which was fused with a traditional play song.
Rozaria Memorial Trust is a registered NGO which has been operating in Murehwa for the past five years. It was formed to honour a heroine and local leader - the late Ambuya Rozaria Chijaka.
It supports innovative initiatives that support prevention, treatment and advocacy in the area of HIV and AIDS and GBV in marginalized communities.
source: The Zimbabwean, December, 18, 2012
Rozaria Memorial Trust (RMT) is directly supporting about 150 children living with HIV in Murewa, Zimbabwe to access treatment and education. The project is now covering three wards; Ward 8, 17 and 18 with a total of 60 villages in Murewa District.This is now full coverage of Ward 17, and entry into Ward 18 in the district doubling the area of coverage, thus reaching more children.
Nine (9) Primary Schools and 3 secondary schools are being reached out through information sharing and capacity building on Anti-Retroviral Therapy and school fess subsidies for Children Living with HIV (CLHIV).We now have two more primary schools in our programme.
Apart from collaborating with schools and health institutions, RMT empowers family and community members to effectively participate in the initiatives that are promoting the children to access treatment, education and life skills support that enhances their lives.
Murewa District has an estimated population of 165 00 people, and the HIV prevalence is 23% against the national average of 13.
Effective Support System: Creating a Caring Environment
With the recognition that needs of Children Living with HIV are not just clinical, Rozaria Memorial Trust is building the capacity of the family members, the community and school teachers in providing supportive environment for treatment and access to unhindered education for the children. The following activities were done
Next Step: Building the life skills of YPLHIV
The project next step is to actively engage and support young people living with HIV in the communities HIV responses through life skills training. The life skills programme is targeting mainly adolescents and young people living with HIV. Life skills programme for YPLHIV is going to be done to help young people living with HIV to cope with their HIV positive status and to manage stress; treatment adherence, make healthy choices on safe sex, and gain understanding of their sexual and reproductive rights.
This is key in ensuring that whilst we promote access to treatment and education for the children; we reverse the spread of the virus, realise human rights and contribute towards UNAIDS 2015 goal of achieving Zero new infections and Zero AIDS-related Deaths by 2015.
We thank all friends and people of goodwill who continue to support our cause, as we provide the much needed access to opportunities to the most vulnerable children and their families.
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