Youth-led partners advocate for adolescent rights
In response to the growing need to address the SRHR of adolescents and youth, the Regional SRHR Fund has awarded grants to three youth-led organisations, to undertake advocacy on priority issues in Southern Africa. The grantees are:
SAYWHAT, a Zimbabwe-based membership organisation of young activists: Regional Advocacy Campaign on Safe Abortion
Pepeta Africa, an online community of young female SRHR activists from DRC, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe established by Katswe Sistahood, Zimbabwe: Regional Advocacy Campaign on Access to Sanitary Pads
AfriYAN, a network of adolescent and youth leaders across Eastern and Southern Africa, with its secretariat in South Africa: Regional Advocacy Campaign on the Age of Consent.
A description of the campaigns and their objectives is provided below. For updates, see the Sex Rights Africa Network Youth Forum.
The three learning grants are designed to enable grantees to develop, test and document innovative approaches to conducting advocacy and awareness campaigns. Grantees are using a diversity of social media and advocacy strategies to bring the voices of young people to the fore.
Grantees are supported by an Advisory Committee of experts, so that they can learn and apply the best practices in areas such as social media and advocacy. The Fund will also link grantees with existing regional and continental ASRHR campaigns such as the Continental Campaign on the Decriminalization of Abortion as well as develop tools and resources to build the capacity of grantees.
By documenting what works and does not work, the three organisations will be able to share effective practices and lessons learned from undertaking their campaigns. Grantees will be assisted to produce case studies, policy briefs and other documents that can be used to engage decision makers.
The tools and lessons will be made available in an accessible format for other youth organisations in the region to learn from and adapt in their own ASRHR and related advocacy campaigns. Plans are also underway to establish a Community of Practice on ASRHR to provide an additional space for youth to learn from one another and build networks of learning among youth organizations.
The campaigns and Community of Practice will be hosted on the Youth Forum on the Sex Rights Africa Network website, where young people can connect, exchange information, and organise for collective action.
Safe Abortion (SAYWHAT). In developing countries, including those in Southern Africa, claims are made that the decriminalisation of abortion can undermine cultural values and the sanctity of human life. However, evidence on the ground shows that the opposite is true; the criminalisation of abortion has resulted in the loss of life or disability when women suffer complications as a result of undergoing unsafe abortions.
SAYWHAT is a membership-based civil society organisation that offers a platform where students and youth can discuss SRH challenges and further develop advocacy initiatives.
In response to the high rates of unsafe abortions in the region, particularly among adolescent and young women, SAYWHAT is undertaking a regional advocacy campaign to advocate for the universal provision of safe abortions in the region.
The campaign seeks to complement and feed into the recent launch of a continental campaign by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to decriminalise abortion. It also links to the Fund’s regional meeting and campaign on safe abortion.
To move the campaign forward, SAYWHAT has established the EARS (Engaging Abortion Research for Southern Africa) platform which provides a physical and virtual space for people to come together and share findings on abortion via social media.
SAYWHAT worked in solidarity with the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) to host the Global Day of Action linked to September 28th, which has been confirmed as the International Day of Safe Abortion, issuing a Press Statement in solidarity with the commemoration and hosting a Meet The Expert Online Platform, for young people in Southern Africa to chat directly with experts on abortion issues.
Plans include a competition to develop messages around decriminalisation.
All of the outcomes from the campaign will be presented as a Case Study on lessons learned and effective practices. SAYWHAT will also draft and disseminate a Policy Brief setting out the Top Actions to be taken on decriminalising abortion.
Access to Sanitary Pads (Pepeta Africa Katswe Sistahood): Sanitary wear is considered a luxury good and pads, tampons and other products are often sold at prices beyond the reach of most of girls and women living in Southern Africa.
Many girls who are menstruating are reluctant to go to school if they cannot afford sanitary pads; some may engage in transactional sex to be able to pay for them. Girls also experience stigma and sexual harassment, compounding the burden of missing school.
To overcome this heavy burden, Pepeta Africa, an online community of young female SRHR activists from Zimbabwe, Zambia, DRC, and Malawi, established by Katswe Sistahood, has launched a regional advocacy campaign called #HappyFlow.
The #HappyFlow campaign comprises synchronised events – 4 days every month – to reflect the number of days of school missed by girls when they have their period. During these four days, young women activists engage in events to amplify the need for free sanitary wear in schools. They will also identify Champions to engage in online activism.
Pepeta will also seek to build upon and learn from a successful campaign on access to sanitary pads in South Africa that has now led to a discussion in the South African Parliament on government about removal of taxation on sanitary pads and distribution of sanitary pads via the private sector.
Pepeta, via Katswe, is working with Gateway Health Institute to test an innovative low-tech system of data collection to inform policy makers about the number of girls who need access to sanitary pads, while educating girls about menstruation and stigma using quizzes and games.
They are also planning to host a meeting with the SADC Parliamentary Forum, to present a signed petition to parliamentarians and show footage from stories gathered from girls who cannot access sanitary pads to serve as a basis to advocate for free sanitary pads and removal of taxation.
Age of Consent: AfriYAN. The age of consent for accessing SRH services, such as contraceptives and HIV counselling and testing, varies across countries and is not provided for in laws and policies in the majority of Southern African states. This has created barriers for young people needing SHR services.
The Africa Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN) has embarked on a regional advocacy campaign to draw attention to this issue in the region. AfriYAN is a network of adolescent and youth leaders that seeks to create an enabling environment for the promotion of effective participation of adolescents and youth in the fight against HIV and AIDS, poverty, unemployment, gender-related inequalities as well as to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights and general youth development.
To advance the campaign, AfriYAN has linked up with RAPCAN (Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect), in South Africa, which successfully campaigned to change the age of consent so that children of the same or similar age are not criminalised if they have sex under the age of 16.
AfriYAN has launched a campaign called #90 Days of Consent to host online campaigns through social media platforms and webinars over the course of 90 days. It also plans to make an animation to demystify the age of consent, which will be shared via twitter, Facebook and through tweet chats. To gather information aimed at influencing policy makers, AfriYAN will film digital stories from young people. A Sex Rights Africa Network mobile app will be used to mobilise other young people to join the campaign and discussions.
All of the outcomes from the campaign will be documented in the form of case studies and advocacy toolkits from Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, to be shared on the SexRightsAfrica.net website.
Community Initiative for Social Empowerment (CISE) Malawi – Strengthen the capacity of stakeholders and build sustainable institutions that promote girls’ right to education through increasing access to Sexual Reproductive Health Services (SRHR) among adolescent, retention, transition to the next grade for marginalized girls and increase resilient and empowered communities for Promotion of Girls’ Right to Education.
PGRE seeks to empower girls by increasing access to information on sexual reproductive health (SRH) increasing participation in life skills, providing incentives for academic competition, and sensitizing, motivating, and mobilizing community structures (teachers, village heads, SMC/PTA, mothers’ groups, initiation counsellors) in schools to eliminate practices such as school-related gender-based violence. To achieve these goals, the project uses a combination of strategies such as social and community mobilization, empowering mothers to be primary counsellors of girls, and mentoring, empowering adolescent with sexual reproductive health rights (SRHRs) and advocacy.
Project objectives – 1. Increased enrolment of girls in basic education in the targeted schools.
2. Improved pass rates for girls in the targeted schools and improved survival rates of girls completing grade eight without repeating or dropping out.
3. To increase enrolment of girls and retention rates to the next grade in upper primary level (Standards 5-8) by 70% by 2018.
Girls empowerment Network (GENET) – Empower young people pursue their rights to make informed decisions on when to get married, access and demand for Sexual Reproductive Services and Rights (SRHR).
The proposed action aims at eliminating the drivers of child marriages as well as addressing its negative consequences thereby breaking the cycle of child marriage, sexual gender based violence, inadequate access to education and increased exposure to STIs including HIV/AIDS among girls at risk of and affected by child marriages. GENET will utilise its already existing approaches and expertise that have proven to be effective in eliminating child marriages and associated negative consequences, which include among others; use of girls/youth clubs, trainings, dialogue with duty bearers, advocacy, community awareness campaigns, theatre for transformations, use of male champions and local leaders, exchange visits and social accountability tools such as community score cards in assessing participants satisfaction levels on the provided public services
Project objectives – 1. To increase knowledge on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Gender Based Violence (GBV) and effects of child marriages among 5000 adolescents in and out of school in Mchinji district by March 2018.
2. To demystify negative cultural practices that perpetuate child marriages and negatively affect education attainment among female and other vulnerable students.
3. To strengthen evidence based and sustainable programming on elimination of child marriages
The Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) – Contribute towards improved availability of credible evidence around the linkages between Child Marriages, SGBV and HIV Infection.
The intervention is borne out of emerging evidence confirming strong linkages between child marriages, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and HIV infection. The intervention will focus on generating evidence on the policy, legislative, religious, political and socio-cultural factors that facilitate child marriages. It will further generate credible evidence on the intersection between child marriages and sexual and reproductive health. In addition, the intervention will use credible evidence to confront structures and systems that support child marriages. Emerging localised good practices and lessons learned on addressing child marriages and SRHR challenges will also be documented and shared.
Project objectives – 1. To conduct research and generate credible evidence on the linkages between Child Marriages, SGBV and HIV Infection;
2. To use credible evidence in conducting advocacy aimed at confronting structures and systems that support child marriages;
3. To document and share emerging localised good practices on addressing child marriages and SRHR challenges.
Grassroot Soccer Zambia (GRSZ) – Connect the dots between the mechanisms of power, control, and coercion that may precede child marriage in Eastern Province, and forms of abuse that may follow.
Grassroot Soccer will use qualitative methods to document, understand and share evidence on the intersectionality between child marriage, HIV, SGBV and education in Zambia’s rural Eastern Province. GRS will build on its 15 years of community mobilization and experience working with vulnerable girls and young women to recruit study participants and train young adults as facilitators for focus group discussions and interviews.
Project objectives – 1. Explore and document how different groups understand child marriage in relation to HIV, education and SGBV.
2. Explore the qualitative difference in the experiences of child marriage, HIV, SGBV and education among sub-groups of adolescent girls
3. Explore and document communities’ views on child marriage, HIV, education and SGBV and the connections between them.
ROZARIA Memorial Trust (RMT) – Ensure integration of psychosocial (PSS) services in re-entry programmes and non-formal education to restore the rights, dignity as well as social and economic assets for girls who experienced child marriage.
The project builds on the understanding that mental health and wellbeing is critical for enabling the total capabilities of girls and young women to self-actualize, explore potential without fear and have the self-agency to claim their rights. The experience of child marriage has many traumatic events and consequences that negatively impact on the mental health of young women and girls, resulting in stress, depression, loss of self-esteem, and many continue to leave with stigma. The project will carry out a scoping study on the current situation on PSS for young women who experienced child marriages who are re-entering formal and non-formal schools including vocational centres.
Project objectives – 1. Strengthen evidence based advocacy for inclusion of comprehensive psycho-social services within the re-entry into education policy, and its implementation.
2. Identify entry points for integration of approach in the implementation of regional policy frameworks at both regional and continental levels.
3. Improve knowledge on human rights by girls and young women as right holders
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) – Galvanising community action against child marriages by transforming societal attitudes and perceptions to form a strong and coherent voice against harmful traditional, cultural and religious practices that promote and or support child marriages in Zimbabwean society.
The intervention is anchored on engagement of duty bearers and awareness raising in Norton and Chiweshe districts in Zimbabwe. The project location has been selected due to the recorded high prevalence of child marriages as stated in the UNFPA Child Marriage paper. The initiatives will prevent child, early and forced marriages through the use a two pronged approach, information dissemination on women and girls rights as provided for by the Constitution and secondly by demanding legal and moral duty bearers to act against child marriages in Zimbabwe and the Southern Africa region.
Project objectives – 1. To sensitise and raise awareness across all stakeholders, on the causes/drivers, effects and negative impacts of early/child marriages in Zimbabwe.
2. Engage duty bearers at all levels to act against child/early marriages.
Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) – Preventing child marriage as a form of Sexual Gender based Violence through the community based structures.
PSAf proposes to challenge the traditional beliefs and practices that fuel child marriage. This will be through advocating for the implementation of the education policies to promote girl child education as a strategy to end child marriage in Mozambique. Emphasis will be on identifying the gaps in the implementation of the education policies, to address the challenges by the girl child at the rural areas. The intervention will create space and opportunities for traditional leaders to review the cultural practices that leads to child marriage thereby leading to dropping out of school.
Project objectives – 1. To advocate for access to education as a strategy to end child marriage.
2. To stimulate national dialogue and debate for effective strategies to promote education for girls.
Advocating for the girl child education to end child marriage in Mozambique.
PSAf proposes an attitude, beliefs and behaviour change communication methodology that will ensure that community members do not accept violence as normal and to call to public and private action to stop the violence. Emphasis will be on developing a clear understanding on how cultural values shape the way people interact, and view each other and build on the relationships that exist within the cultural setting. The intervention will create space and opportunities for men to become champions against GBV and participate and generate enough pressure for change. PSAf will use social behaviour change communication as an effective strategy for sensitisation, awareness creation and behaviour change.
Project objectives – 1. To increase knowledge levels on consequences of child marriages on girls at the community level.
2. To stimulate dialogue and debate for effective strategies to prevent sexual violence and child marriage
Gateway Health Institute (GHI) – Educate girls and young women and collect data on topics relating to Feminine Hygiene.
Gateway Health will work with Katswe Sistahood to scale up Thoko’s Journey within the context of raising awareness about the challenges and needs of girls and young women relevant to ASRHR. It will also seek to document the best practices and lessons learned such that other organizations wishing to use the technology will be able to learn from the experience. Gateway Health will work with Katswe Sistahood and young girls to: The project will involve two inter-related activities: Scale up of Thokos Journey through developing story boards, games and surveys: Gateway Health will work with Katswe Sistahood to scale up Thoko’s Journey within the context of raising awareness about the challenges and needs of girls and young women relevant to ASRHR. It will also seek to document the best practices and lessons learned such that other organizations wishing to use the technology will be able to learn from the experience. Gateway Health will work with Katswe Sistahood and young girls to:
a. Determine key issues related to ECM that need to be communicated
b. Develop appropriate messaging through consultation with key youth stakeholders (story boards) through FGDs.
c. Test approach through small-scale communication
d. Document best practices and lessons learned.
Project objectives – 1. To scale up the developed USSD edutainment platform by focusing on Early Child Marriage as key sexual and reproductive health issue of relevance to adolescents and youth.
2. To scale up the developed USSD edutainment platform to focus on key issues linked to ECM such as HIV, GBV and Education.
3. To collect data from adolescents and youth to inform about their knowledge of and attitudes to ECM and key issues linked to ECM such as GBV, HIV and Education.
4. To share and disseminate information among regional Youth-Led Groups.