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Katswe Sistahood gets recognition

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KATSWE Sistahood founder and director, Talent Jumo, has been named among 40 “new generation family planning leaders” for 2017 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health.

BY STAFF REPORTER

The recognition comes hot on the heels of Katswe Sistahood’s widely followed exposure last week of rampant cases of child sexual exploitation in and around Harare. The organisation focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for girls and young women from marginalised groups.

Known as the 120 Under 40, the Gates Institute award recognises and highlights the achievements of the next
generation of family planning leaders worldwide. It is a three-year project in which 40 outstanding young family planning champions are chosen each year.

Jumo acknowledged her recognition, hailing the commitment of Katswe’s advocates and volunteers to empower girls and young women with knowledge of their sexual and reproductive health and to exercise their rights over their own bodies.

“At Katswe we have the welfare of girls and women at heart, and we are humbled that our work has been recognised in this special way. The harsh economic environment in the country has increased the risk of children being sexually exploited for survival. They are highly vulnerable to HIV, STI infections as well as pregnancies and unsafe abortions. So it is extremely urgent that they are given State protection sooner rather than later, and we will continue to play our role to ensure that happens,” Jumo said.

This year’s 120 Under 40 winners include advocates, researchers, service providers, epidemiologists, medical doctors, programme officers, communications and media professionals, and founders of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and non-profits. They work all over the world — in clinics and universities, in offices, and in the field — to advance family planning and reproductive health.

The 40 winners for 2017 were chosen through public online voting, scoring by a jury of experts and leaders in family planning, and the project secretariat. They each received $1 000 from the Gates Institute to continue their work in family planning.

“This second group of winners is as outstanding as the first,” Jose Rimon II, director of the Gates Institute and chair of the 120 Under 40 Jury, said.

“These young leaders are creating positive disruptions all over the world, and their impact will only grow stronger as they forge a new network with their fellow 120 Under 40 winners.”

With Jumo’s award, Katswe Sistahood will launch a new campaign to promote awareness of both short and long-term contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception and condoms.

“We are going to push the #TellEveryGirl Campaign vigorously through social media and printed material. The campaign will saturate homes, social platforms, and communities with contraceptives stories. Portraits and short videos will be used to generate dialogue on the negative effects of contraceptive stigma and ignorance. The goal is to get every citizen to #TellEveryGirl and support them to access comprehensive SRHR services,” Jumo said.

“I first learnt about emergency contraception from a sex worker at the age of 17. In other words, I learnt something so important from someone considered a ‘bad’ woman; she is my hero. Had I fallen pregnant then, that would have been the end of my school life. Too many young women — from school girls to well-groomed professionals — have hardly enough information on sex, sexuality, conception and contraception. We want everyone to use every opportunity they get to discuss these topics.”

Katswe’s Pachoto Support Circles provide safe spaces where girls and young women can be open and honest about their sexual experiences, breaking the silence that surrounds sexual matters and engaging communities and service providers to confront the stigma associated with contraceptive use by unmarried youth.

Today, Katswe supports 60 Pachoto Circles where about 1 800 participants are mobilised for SRHR literacy, community outreach and advocacy

Last week Katswe participated in a widely shared radio interview on child sexual exploitation alongside some of the affected children. Shocking revelations by the sexually-exploited children horrified the nation, leading to the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry springing into action to respond to the cases.

Katswe assisted ministry officials to identify urgent cases involving sexually-exploited girls, resulting in more than 50 girls being found and relocated to safe houses.

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