Youth provide leadership for AIDS effort
Sunday 4 July 2004
Home About PlusNews Country Profiles News Briefs Special Reports Subscribe Archive IRINnews


East Africa
Great Lakes
Horn of Africa
Southern Africa
·South Africa
West Africa


PlusNews E-mail Subscription

ZIMBABWE: Youth provide leadership for AIDS effort

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Young girls are particularly vulnerable to AIDS

HARARE, 18 May (PLUSNEWS) - With young people in Zimbabwe most at risk from HIV/AIDS, a new project is seeking to empower youth representatives to make a difference among their peers.

The District Response Initiative (DRI), which works to reduce the effects of HIV/AIDS on rural youth in seven of the country's most impoverished districts, is already using trained peer eductors to encourage HIV/AIDS awareness at youth-friendly clubs and centres.

Now the DRI has drafted youth office-bearers - teenagers appointed as young parliamentarians, governors and councillors by the ministry of youth - into the cause.

The office bearers, aged between 15 and 20, were appointed to their one-year posts after excelling at public-speaking competitions organised at school, district and national level by the ministry of youth. The strategy utilises their popularity among their peers and ability to get age-mates to listen to them and talk more freely about issues they would feel too embarrassed to discuss with adults.

Although the youth leaders had already worked on AIDS awareness in their districts, the DRI - funded by the UN Foundation (UNF) through the Southern Africa Youth Initiative on AIDS (SAY) - has aimed to provide more coherent direction under the coordination of the National AIDS Council's District AIDS Coordinators (DACs).

The office bearers - many of them young women - conduct meetings and activities at their schools or travel to other schools. Under the DRI, the role has been expanded to include lobbying their seniors in government and the DACs for change on a wide range of child-related issues.

An estimated 1.8 million Zimbabweans are living with HIV/AIDS, with girls in the 15 to 19 age group most at risk.

In March a two-day workshop was organised for the child leaders to start the DRI process of developing them into effective disseminators of HIV/AIDS information. They were instructed in the dynamics of "servant leadership" and how to answer difficult questions about HIV/AIDS.

The workshop also sought to help improve communication links with the DACs, which some of the youth leaders said remained problematic. "They are supposed to supervise and help us with our work, but some things are not made clear to us. When we tell them about the resources the district needs, nothing is done, or they don't tell us when they have them at hand - they just go on to plan on their own," Janet Mugutso, one of the child leaders, told PlusNews.

Strategies were discussed to bring about better planning, implementation and monitoring of youth leaders' activities through the DACs, as a result of which youth leadership desks are to be established in each district, management manuals made available, and collected data periodically analysed to assess the effectiveness of the programme.

Zimbabwe's child president, Blessing Mamvoto, whose duty it is to monitor the activities of all the child parliamentarians, commented: "Most of us have been crying for this workshop. We must know what is expected of us - none of us are born leaders."

One of the objectives of the DRI has been to create awareness among adults, leaders and stakeholders in the districts to support young people's reproductive health concerns, but the youth leaders said more work had to be done before this became a reality.

"It is important for parents to talk to their children. Parents must be educated on condom use - right now, it's looked on as taboo. They don't represent modern thinking," said Faith Thandanguni, a child governor from Midlands province.

Tanya Hungwe, child governor of the Mashonaland East Province, thought the perceptions of some traditional leaders were also obstacles to be addressed. Others spoke of hostile teachers at the schools they visited, or mentioned transport and communication problems.

The child leaders PlusNews interviewed also called for greater government involvement in their work, and bemoaned the lack of financial assistance.


Recent ZIMBABWE Reports
Alarm over HIV prevalence in armed forces,  24/Jun/04
AIDS activists complain conference ignored them,  18/Jun/04
Action plan set to help orphans,  18/Jun/04
Limited response to PMTC programme,  17/Jun/04
Mugabe calls for cheaper AIDS drugs,  16/Jun/04
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
Youth against AIDS
Making A difference for Children Affected by AIDS
Children and AIDS International Non-Government Organisation Network (CAINN)
AIDS Orphans Assistance Database

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:

  • IRIN
  • Inter Press Service (IPS)
  • Health Systems Trust
  • Health & Development Networks
  • GTZ/Afronets

[Back] [Home Page]

Click to send any feedback, comments or questions you have about IRIN's Website or if you prefer you can send an Email to

The material contained on this Web site comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post any item on this site, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All graphics and Images on this site may not be re-produced without the express permission of the original owner. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004