Young women living with HIV lead the way in new Zimbabwe initiative

Today, the Alliance and its partners – the Zimbabwe Young Positives and ATHENA Initiative – launch READY to Lead, an exciting young women’s leadership project in Zimbabwe, funded by Comic Relief.

<p>Annah Sango (centre), READY To Lead mentor, advocating for youth-led female leadership at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, March 2018. Luisa Cabal (right), special adviser on human rights and gender, UNAIDS<br />Steve Letsike (left), director, Access Chapter 2, South Africa</p>Annah Sango (centre), READY To Lead mentor, advocating for youth-led female leadership at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, March 2018. Luisa Cabal (right), special adviser on human rights and gender, UNAIDS. Steve Letsike (left), director, Access Chapter 2, South Africa © International HIV/AIDS Alliance

Through READY to Lead, young women will hone their leadership skills via training and mentorship. They will learn how to effectively gather evidence from their peers and advocate on issues that affect their sexual and reproductive health and rights in local, national and global arenas. As the project progresses, their mentees will also grow into mentors to create a sustainable model of young female leadership.

In a recent video to celebrate SheDecides Day, Christine Stegling, International HIV/AIDS Alliance executive director, reflected on urgent concerns around sexual harassment and the impact of gender-based violence on girls and young women in their communities: “This is the point where we have to give real space for women to take leadership and to make [gender equality] happen.”

Building leadership skills

READY to Lead will work closely with READY+ in Zimbabwe, another project under the READY portfolio. Young women living with HIV from READY+ who are working with adolescent girls and young women living with HIV to support adherence and psychosocial support, will have an opportunity to join READY to Lead and develop their leadership and advocacy skills.

Ebony Johnson, young women's leadership advisor at ATHENA Initiative, said: “Young women must lead with new ideas, new interventions and new strategies to lead to safe, healthy and equitable societies. READY to Lead enables this by resourcing and creating space to build and expand new leadership, and by supporting young women to lead change from their communities.”

Annah Sango, advocacy officer at Zimbabwe Young Positives, explains why this project is critical for young women in her country. She said: “Young women are more than receptors for biomedical responses: we need to be seen as agents in our own health care. We are equally responsible for our health, safety and well-being and that means we get to have a say over our bodies. When we have the skills, capacity, knowledge and mentorship, we are better positioned to lead and decide for our lives.”

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