Collaboration is Key: Synergy between CSOs and Youth in Zimbabwe Accelerates Success

Abebe Shibru and Onward Chironda, FP2020 Zimbabwe Focal Points

Zimbabwe is on the right track toward meeting its FP2020 commitments with a high modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR), thanks in large part to the collaboration and support from civil society and youth organizations. After convening with various stakeholders at the recent Anglophone Africa Focal Point Workshop, CSO organizations and youth-led organizations decided to convene again to discuss several specific action items. While it might not be a current priority to increase the CPR, government and other stakeholders agreed it’s wise to invest in maintaining access to and availability of contraception by focusing on the following: 

  1. Strengthening strategic partnerships and coordination between government and CSOs;
  2. Widening programming for “hard to reach” populations (faith-based communities, adolescents and young people, people with disabilities);
  3. Using mainstream and social media platforms for education and demand generation; and
  4. Strengthening advocacy and accountability on policy review and implementation.

To that end, after the workshop, stakeholders agreed to come together again – this time with a larger group to discuss tactics to support these priorities. 

The group reconvened at the 5th CSO & Youth Symposium, held in Harare, Zimbabwe, to focus specifically around reaching the “hardest to reach.”  They focused on highlighting young people, faith-based communities, and people with disabilities as key populations family planning programs need to engage. To narrow down actionable steps, the symposium included a “world café” style roundtable session to produce a key population action plan. 

“If we just continue to target teenagers and don’t involve their parents, we’ll continue having teenagers and younger people getting married,” said Dr. Davidzoyashe Makosa, Ministry of Health and Childcare, at the symposium. During the session, young people were engaged and helped lead the discussion themselves, contributing concrete ways the family planning movement could better serve young people. 

Faith leaders were also a critical part of the discussion – particularly around how to best engage their communities. “We must clear the air – what is the relationship between faith healing and modern medicine?” asked Reverend Innocent Chitanda, Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe. “Just like in any other community, we want our people to live life longer, and grow older, so family planning is vital.”

Out of these discussions, the way forward became clearer. The group developed specific action items to reach the three key populations discussed, and are now disseminating that plan to relevant stakeholders, but several focus areas capture the upcoming work:

  1. Engaging church and faith leaders through personal, direct dialogues, focusing on facts and services and including these points in theological discussions. 
  2. To better reach people with disabilities, engage with caregivers directly, and work with larger institutions that work on disability advocacy and care, not family planning, and develop partnerships in this arena. Consider working with these institutions to develop a needs assessment for family planning programs for people with disabilities. 
  3. To better reach young people, the group agreed engaging traditional, mainstream, and social media would be key, and to partner with key influencers in these areas.. 

Stay tuned – more takeaways from the symposium will soon be released. In the meantime, Zimbabwe’s full commitment is available on our website, and a full video of the symposium will be released on YouTube soon!