Young people need an environment that enables them to freely and safely access Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and services as these rights are fundamental. As a way of creating a positive behaviour change, My Age Zimbabwe’s Girls Choose Project helps facilitate access to information on SRHR by young people and adolescent boys and girls.
COVID-19 lockdown has created an environment where young people cannot move freely to access services and information and this has consequently affected young people in regards to their SRHR.
Girls Chose put in place a number of activities in trying to make sure that young people access these fundamental services and information even in the face of the pandemic.
To ensure that more adolescents are reached with information on SRHR, Sexual Gender Based Violence, HIV and AIDS including contraceptives focusing on prevention, treatment, care and support, My Age works with 7 High schools and 3 tertiary institutions with theatre for development initiatives.
The plays and provoke dialogue and share critical information on SRHR, Modern Contraceptives followed by post-performance discussions that will be carried out using the learning cycle model. However due to closing down of schools ,the plays are now being done as social media skits .These skits are shared on My Age Zimbabwe’s different social media platforms and on WhatsApp groups with the young people.
The girls choose club sessions are also being conducted on social media to ensure that young people continue receiving important information even during lockdown. One of the engagements used under the project is know your services campaigns which are used to share information with the community and also demand availability of services.
In the pipeline are radio programs which are going to be targeting parents trying to create positive parenting in terms of communicating with their children when it comes to SRHR issues. This is an area that has not been given attention in the past but has a great impact on every young person. Also bulk messages will be sent to students and champions with information on SRHR every Friday.
Due to the pandemic most SRH service providers have become strict and some are closing and young people are also failing to move around to access these services. To this regard Girls Choose Champions have been capacitated with information and skills when dealing with their peers who may be in need of SRHR information and services. Girls Choose champions are going to be working with stakeholders including but not limited to Population Services International (PSI) and Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) to ensure that their peers access services they need .
Another objective of this program is to ensure that young people continue to adhere with their ART treatments so as to avoid problems for them in future. Youth hub meetings and dialogues will be done virtually to promote social distancing and avoid movements.
It is clear that SRHR remains a fundamental part of young people’s lives and it has even become crucial during this period hence a rise in SGBV, HIV and AIDS new infections, unplanned pregnancies and STIs.
It is therefore important to mitigate ways in which young people are empowered and reached out with SRHR services and information as we continue to fight for an HIV and AIDS free generation where women are empowered to make choices that will enable them to reach their full potential in life.