Gender inequality is a crippling factor that debilitates women and young girls in impoverished countries, such as Zimbabwe. In response to the increasing rate of dropouts and sexual abuse that is prevalent in Zimbabwe, the Sista2Sista club was established in 2013 to assist in empowering Zimbabwe women to learn about personal rights and advocate for themselves.
Stories like that of 15-year-old Shamiso Nyamutamba are far too common in Zimbabwe. By age 5, both of Shamiso’s parents had passed away and she was sent to live with her uncle, who planned to force her hand in marriage and send her to work instead of pursuing an education. Shamiso’s time with her uncle included abuse and discrimination and though she was fortunate enough to eventually escape the harmful environment, she was still required to make work a priority in her life in lieu of an education. Soon after her transition, Shamiso heard of the Sista2Sista club that offered a safe place for vulnerable girls, such as herself.
Shamiso eventually learned she was HIV positive since birth. Through the advocacy and empowerment that Sista2Sista provides, she continues to grow with their health services and school programs. She has “proven to be academically gifted,” and as described by Shamiso, Sista2Sista “taught [her] that early marriage is wrong… and to report cases of abuse right away.”
Since the organization of Sista2Sista started, 10,388 Zimbabwean girls have joined the club. The U.N. Population Fund provides financial support and advocates for the initiatives of promoting sexual and reproductive health rights. UNFPA works to reduce maternal mortality rates, provide family planning education and prevent new HIV infections and gender-based violence. The UNFPA supports the need for an informed “understanding of population dynamics and using an integrated, rights-based and gender-sensitive approach.”
Ongoing support for women through organizations such as Sista2Sista has created a movement in Zimbabwe that continues to invent new methods needed to advocate for furthering women’s rights. As outlined in the Girls and Young Women’s Empowerment Framework, the Government of Zimbabwe plans to increase accessibility to sexual and reproductive health services. Additional goals include increasing female participation in the decision-making processes and equality in all levels of education, as well as increasing the rate of violence reporting experienced by girls from three percent to 50% by 2020.
– Amy Williams