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Sexual rights activist wants local solutions

Washington Fellowship
Young sexual and reproductive health rights activist, Charmaine Picardo, says her participation in the Washington Fellowship will assist her in developing

Young sexual and reproductive health rights activist, Charmaine Picardo, says her participation in the Washington Fellowship will assist her in developing local solutions to common health challenges affecting young people.

04_Charmaine Picardo

A second year social science student at a local university, Charmaine was selected to participate in President Obama’s 2014 Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI).

Upon receiving the news of her selection, Charmaine says she stopped doing what she was doing and headed home. “I needed to tell someone to make it real and seeing my mom jump, scream and hug me made it all real for me,” she recalls.

She will spend six weeks at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey where she hopes to hone her skills in combining media, arts and advocacy to push for positive social change. “I hope to learn about sustainable civic leadership; how to raise funds and resources locally for sexual and reproductive health and rights projects,” she says.

Charmaine is currently a 2nd year student at the University of Zimbabwe studying for a Bachelor of Social Sciences Honours Degree in Sociology. At her college, Charmaine is one of the coordinators of Young Women Leadership, a regional initiative for Southern African female students.

At 17, she became a presenter for popular television show Ndeipi Gen’a, a television program focused on Youth Activism and Development through activities such as music, entrepreneurship, and public debates. She has corresponded with a local daily newspaper writing for the youth column.

In 2012, she worked as a Community Arts Educator for the Arts Lab, a project commissioned by the British Council to assist young Zimbabwean artists in mastering the art of expression through theatre. In 2011, she served as a Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights envoy for youth in Zimbabwe.

Her experience working with young people in Zimbabwe tells her that more can be done with homegrown solutions. “Working in the area of sexual and reproductive health rights, I have come to realize that most programs and projects that government and civil society in Zimbabwe carry out stem from what partners or donors think is best,” says Charmaine who recently completed training with the SAfAIDS Young Women Leadership Program in Pretoria, South Africa.

She believes programs like the Washington Fellowship help young people in Africa “to build the kind of country they want for themselves and future generations, learn what is happening globally and get a chance to catch up on global trends and patterns.”

“I think the Washington Fellows are the nucleus. We will share and apply the knowledge we will acquire, mentor other people and actively participate in different areas to foster development in different sectors in Zimbabwe,” she says.


• Watch the video message from President Obama encouraging young African leaders to join the YALI Network. • For more information on YALI go to http://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/yali/ • For more information on the Washington Fellowship, including video of President Obama’s announcement of the program go to http://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washington-fellows/