Targeting youths reproductive rights

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Tatenda Songore (25) grew up in a poor family. After completing his A levels he did not have any source of funds to pursue further education.

Instead of taking drugs, smoking, drinking beer or looking for women like most teenagers, Tatenda decided to start a project to help the youths. His idea was to develop and improve the lives of youths in Chitungwiza.

Life was not easy for Songore. He grew up with his great grandmother in a poor rural family. He confessed sometimes he would have just boiled plain mushrooms without salt for supper.

The financial constraint became a stepping stone for Tatenda as he started working with youths. His family became his source of inspiration. This gave birth to Youth Advocates Zimbabwe (YAZ) in 2003.

Youth Advocates Zimbabwe is a youth-led organisation which looks into issues affecting young people such as crime, prostitution, unemployment, HIV and Aids and lack of basic rights.

The goal is to empower young people with their reproductive rights and civic responsibilities through advocacy, information sharing and transformative education.

Since 2003, the organisation has had a membership of over 1 000 young people in four provinces and a national youth advisory board. The organisation is operating at national level and has set up branches in Bulawayo, Mutare, Beatrice, Dema, Seke rural, Marondera, Chitungwiza and Harare.

Pride Shoniwa a beneficiary was raised by his mother, a single parent. He used to move from school to school because of lack of finances. YAZ became a public forum where he could ask questions he failed to ask his mother especially on puberty.

The organisation helped him to be exposed to certain platforms and business networks. He has learnt it is easier to be in business after acquiring the necessary skills needed. Shoniwa is now an expert in various skills needed in day-to-day living such as writing, business and negotiating skills.

Another beneficiary Nyasha Chihotas parents divorced and she grew up with her grandmother. Her family issues caused her to be constantly depressed. When she joined YAZ, she got help to overcome her problems and obtained comfort from the group set-up that she was in.

When her parents got divorced, she became bad-tempered, but YAZ helped her to overcome this. The organisation helped her to understand the importance of school.

Currently she is rewriting failed subjects at Ordinary Level and this has helped her to boost self-confidence. She has learnt about writing proposals and reports skills.

Chihota has also gained confidence and now she is an educator to other youths in the community on issues of gender and sexual reproduction. She is able to facilitate a workshop and chair a meeting at national level.

Trynos Majiho is a young artist from Marondera. The organisation helped him to write lyrics on HIV-related songs and gave him a platform to perform the songs.
In December 2009 YAZ participated In a campaign tour of five provinces.

YAZ distributed 3 000 male and female condoms, HIV and Aids materials and shared testimonials of people living with HIV and Aids. The organisation travelled 2 000km reaching more than 30 000 young people while many others had the chance to experience their activities through national television.

In August 2010, YAZ held a four-day HIV and Aids workplace training to Delta youth apprentices. It was the first youth-led organisation to present at Delta corporation workplace training and included topics on key drivers, HIV, status disclosure and stress management.

The organisation facilitated a four-day capacity building seminar in Chitungwiza for junior councillors at Godfrey Huggins School in Marondera. This seminar was attended by over 50 young people, who were trained on sexual reproductive health rights, gender mainstreaming, life skills and enterprenureship. They now share this experience within their schools.

YAZ held a campaign march in partnership with Chitungwiza Junior Council. The young people marched from Makoni shopping centre in Seke to Chitungwiza Town centre where they then gathered and presented issues affecting them, with the main thrust being environmental sustainability, HIV and Aids, human rights and ways to end poverty.

In February 2011, YAZ distributed 380 condoms at Chikwana Hotel. This was done to encourage safe sex among the youths.

YAZ noted with great concern some young people were too shy to buy condoms, a great risk to their health. Distribution is done on monthly basis. Female condoms are being distributed as well, as a way of encouraging women to practice safe sex especially sex workers.

In summary, YAZ undertakes the following activities:
Rights-based comprehensive sexual and reproduction health education
Information dissemination on services and opportunities for young people
Life skills training such as building self esteem, managing self anxiety
Livelihoods
Millennium development goals campaign
Environmental sustainability
Advocating for youth developmental issues which include health and education.

Songore funds the organisation. He owns a public address system and hires it out so the organisation can sustain its activities.