By Noel Schroeder, September 27, 2016 —

Tag a Life International (TaLI), is a Zimbabwean girls and young women’s rights organization whose mission is to make the world a safer place by starting with an inclusive approach at the school level through prevention, intervention, and advocacy. We spoke with Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, the founder of TaLI, about young women and girls’ health in Zimbabwe, and here’s what she had to say:

What are the most pressing health issues that women and girls face in the communities you work with?

Sexual reproductive health and rights are an issue for all girls and young women. Girls do not have comprehensive information on how to prevent diseases such as HIV and AIDS, or how to prevent early and unwanted pregnancies, as well as child marriages. Because culture and religious practices deny girls and young women a voice and ownership of their bodies, and because of a culture that refuses the reality that young people are engaging in sexual relationships, there is need for comprehensive sexual education for girls and young women. This is important because of the above mentioned threats to their health, but also, because of high maternal mortality among young women who give birth before they reach 18 years of age. Further, young women also face being exposed to fistula as well as emotional abuse, over and above the physical health threats.

How is TaLI trying to address these issues?

We work with girls and young women teaching them about their reproductive health rights in empowerment clubs and community dialogues. Here they learn about their bodies, comprehensive sexual education, which includes ways of protecting themselves from diseases and unwanted pregnancies such as informing them about available contraceptive methods.

We work with girls ages 10 to 24, providing age-related information. For example, girls below the age of 12 learn about basic protection and introduction to puberty; girls above 12 years old learn more about sexual reproductive health rights; and girls up to 24 year olds learn more about available contraception, gender based violence, civic engagement among many issues which regard their own autonomy. We work with boys, men, and communities as well as local leaders to ensure that girls have the knowledge to respect girls’ rights and also be champions of those rights.

What is needed for women and girls to overcome these issues in order to fully achieve their sexual and reproductive rights?

There is need for investment in girls and young women’s issues. A holistic approach is required to address the empowerment of girls with information and skills to protect their own rights, to attend school, and to engage in income generating activities that are age relevant in order to ensure all vulnerabilities are addressed. Further, programmes have to focus on boys, men, local leaders, women, and legislators to ensure a holistic approach, as girls live with others who are either holders of their rights or violators of their rights. Either way, the identified groups can play a big role in the realisation of the rights of girls.