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Red Cross intensifies SRHR youth engagement

By Style Reporter

The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) has intensified its engagement with youths across the country over sexual and reproductive health rights.

The project, which kicked off in 2019, aims at building on existing capacities and structures of ZRCS by employing a mainstreaming approach to sexual and reproductive health rights and sexually gender-based violence as well as promoting strong youth engagement.

According to the World Bank, gender-based violence or violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that affects one in three women in their lifetime.

UNFPA says 15 million adolescent girls worldwide, aged 15–19 years, have experienced forced sex. In the vast majority of countries, adolescent girls are most at risk of forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) by a current or former husband, partner, or boyfriend.

In Zimbabwe, about one in three women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence and about one in four women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

It is against this background that ZRCS in partnership with the Danish Red Cross is reaching out to youth oversexual and reproductive health rights issues through a project dubbed Youth Sexual Reproduction Health and Rights.

“The project aims at increasing awareness on the rights to protection and the availability of services is an important step in empowering rights holders including women, girls, and boys,” said ZRCS secretary-general Elias Hwenga.

“The target groups are youth in primary and secondary schools and communities in Muzarabani district as well as youth at universities in three provinces.

“The overall objective of the project is to have strengthened resilience through promotion of youth and adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights in Zimbabwe.”

Sexuality, gender and reproduction matters have long been considered taboo and non-discussable matters in the public domain within African culture, including Zimbabwe.

In light of this, government over the years has stopped up efforts to demystify sexuality as was seen by the promulgation of first National Adolescent and Reproductive health policy.

“As Red Cross we are complementing government efforts, hence our rolling out of programmes targeted at the young generation in matters of sexual and reproductive health,” Hwenga said.

He said the other aspect of the project includes taking advantage of the Red Cross clubs at tertiary educational institutions to promote sexual reproductive health and rights awareness, skills, and services.

“It is through this output that the project bought various sporting kits, inclusive of soccer, volleyball, netball which were distributed recently at universities sporting clubs such as Chinhoyi University of Technology and Midlands State University [Gweru],” Hwenga said.

The Dean of students’ representative, who is also Chinhoyi University of Technology ZRCS club matron, Sister Bande appreciated the efforts of Red Cross to shore up sexual and reproductive health rights edutainment and physical education.

“Physical exercise is essential for students because exercise does not only help students to stay healthy, but it also helps them to improve emotional fitness,”  Bande said.

She said the kits would be of good use in supporting sexual and reproductive health rights edutainment through Red Cross Club activities.

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