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Programming for Young People in Zimbabwe

Project Name and Location:

Programming for Young People in Zimbabwe, a national programme.

Background/Rationale for Project:

In Zimbabwe, some cultural beliefs and practices violate children's and young people's rights and there is inadequate participation of young people in decisions that affect their lives. Discussions on sexuality and "growing up" remain taboo at all levels and as a result, healthy sexual practices are uncommon. In addition, there are weak linkages between information, knowledge and provision of services and an absence of youth friendly policies and services. There is lack of access to education, as well as retention and equity, and 50% of school-aged children remain at home in commercial farming areas. The HIV infection rate is rising among youth (15-29). Over 1,000 people die every week due to HIV/AIDS. 30% of pregnant women are HIV+ and 44% of 19 year-old-women are either mothers or pregnant. By the year 2005 there will be more than 910,000 AIDS orphans.

Project Description

Timeframe: 1995-1999

Implementer(s): Government Line Ministries of Health, Education and Culture, National Affairs and Co-operatives, Information and Telecommunications, Labour and Social Welfare, Local Government, Municipalities, Non-governmental organisations, Community based organisations; AIDS service Associations, Youth Groups and Religious Organisations.

Lead Partner: National AIDS Co-ordination Programme (NACP). Partner(s)/alliances: UNAIDS, UN Sister agencies

Funding Source(s) and Overall Budget (US$) 1995-1999:

General Resources: 364,000.00

Supplementary funds:

Dutch: 4,548,436.41

AusAID: 1,499,800.00

UK NatCom: 371,200.00

USAID: 387,000.00


Total: 7,170,436.41


  • Contribute towards reduction of High Risk Adolescent behaviour and foster a supportive environment for people with AIDS (PWAs)
  • Facilitate/support orphan care community initiatives
  • Contribute to reduction of Mother-to-Child HIV transmission
  • Facilitate psychosocial life skills education projects for in and out-of-school youth
  • Increase STI/HIV knowledge, promote safe sex practices and STI treatment seeking behaviour amongst vulnerable groups
  • Improve capacity for community, NGOs and CBOs response to HIV/AIDS prevention and promote PWAs community based activities
  • Facilitate/support provision of youth friendly services
  • Advocate for policies and laws to promote development of young people and protect their rights


The beneficiaries of this project are children, adolescents and youth in and out of school aged between 7 to 18 years, pregnant women and their partners (MTCT). Both male and female children, adolescents and youth participate in the projects through lifeskills and HIV/AIDS education in the classroom, youth clubs/action teams or as peer educators in programmes initiated by local NGOs, municipalities, church groups, decentralised government departments, community HIV/AIDS prevention programmes, among others. Health professionals, schoolteachers, members of NGOs/CBOs/religious groups and members of the community participate at varying degrees to facilitate meeting the health and development needs of the adolescents and youth.

Description of Activities:

  • Life skills education for in-school youth
  • Life skills, peer education for out-of-school youth
  • High risk behaviour focus groups
  • Community mobilisation and outreach using Triple A (a participatory methodology that facilitates community involvement in problem assessment, analysis and taking action to improve the situation).
  • Community Outreach/NGO support and capacity building
  • Community initiatives in support of orphans Reduction of MTCT (Mother to child transmission) of HIV
  • Behaviour change and behaviour development strategies for action Advocacy and social mobilisation for supportive policies - orphans and youth
  • Promotion of Youth Friendly Services Operational research, monitoring and evaluation
  • Life skills AIDS education introduced in primary, secondary and tertiary curricula
  • Peer education approach used for promotion of positive behaviours amongst youth and vulnerable groups
  • Formal and informal communication methods used for AIDS education and life skills development
  • Support to the establishment of Youth Friendly Services initiated in 1998, e.g. youth corners
  • Formative research on youth health and development needs
  • Knowledge based programming techniques applied
How have adolescent boys and girls been involved in the project? In what stages have they been involved - situation assessment, situation analysis, planning, implementation, monitoring, and/or evaluation?
  • Although their participation is still low, UNICEF and its partners are increasingly facilitating the active involvement of adolescents and youth in projects that aim to address their health and development needs through the Triple A process of community involvement in problem assessment, analysis and taking action to solve identified problems. Some of the specific cases are stated below:
    • As part of the development of the Situation Assessment and Analysis of Children and Women in preparation for the 2000-2004 Government of Zimbabwe/ UNICEF country programme, about 150 adolescents and youth from all over the country (aged 10 to 18), gathered at a youth consultative forum in April 1998 to participate in a needs assessment exercise with the view to inform a Child Rights Programming Approach.
    • Young people from various settings (urban, peri-urban, rural, farm, mining, church) aged between 14-24 years, were identified from seven provinces and participated in the planning, data collection, analysis and validation processes of a formative study to determine health and development needs of out of school young people. Young people will be involved in advocating decision-makers to facilitate meeting identified needs.
    • Young people educate their peers within and outside their action teams/clubs. In cases where youth friendly health and social services are being provided, young people working closely with youth friendly personnel are responsible for the youth centres or youth corners (in the case of clinics/hospitals) where they provide, information, education and refer peers for treatment of, for example, STDs.
    • Presently more than 150 out-of-school youth action clubs with membership ranging from 10 to 50 have been identified in 6 provinces. A study has been commissioned to determine the number of HIV/AIDS prevention clubs for adolescents and youth in school. Youth-led initiatives for HIV/AIDS prevention and care are mushrooming throughout the country. While a few youths have benefited to date, plans are underway to conduct comprehensive training of more youth in managing their own projects.
  • However, girls remain less actively involved in youth activities in most cases as a result of socio-cultural norms that dictate that they should be confined in the home. A conscious effort is being made through youth facilitators to get more girls involved in these projects.
What influence has their involvement had on the project?
  • Generally, the participation of young people has seen the project begin to achieve its goals, particularly among themselves as a target group.More specifically:
  • Peer education and youth festivals among other activities by youth for youth have attracted more adolescents and youth to appreciate and participate actively in youth-led HIV/AIDS interventions. This is evidenced by the mushrooming of youth action teams/clubs within a short period of time and the numerous requests for information and education materials made by the young people. In summary, high demand is being created and action is underway.
  • Young people are beginning to lobby local authorities to support activities and provision of services aimed at promoting their health and development, albeit currently in isolated cases.
  • Government officials, NGO leaders, private sector, community based organisations, religious groups, community leaders and media are increasingly beginning to appreciate the need for and support the provision of youth friendly services.

How have the adolescent girls and boys involved in the project been affected personally?

While statistics are not currently available to indicate the numbers:

  • More of the young participants have gained in-depth information, education and life skills which have enabled this group to become more assertive, communicate better and make informed decisions about their health and sexuality. They know how to access services to promote their health and development . They now have greater understanding and skills to avoid situations that put them at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS/STDs for example. They report that they are prepared to postpone sex until they get married.
  • Young people have also benefited from life skills training programmes. They report that they are more confident of themselves, and feel that they can be in control of their own destiny.

What have been the achievements of this project to date?

  • HIV/AIDS has been recognised as a threatening problem by the government and political leaders, members of the community as well as adolescents and youth. Despite this commitment, action has not been translated into resource allocation for HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • Increased provincial, district and community participation to fight the epidemic through Provincial Governors, Provincial/ District Medical Directorates, NGOs/CBOs/religious groups, community leaders and adolescents and youth.
  • A National Policy for AIDS prevention and care has been formulated and a strategy for the implementation is ongoing
  • A National Policy for orphans has been formulated and endorsed by government.
  • A National Youth Policy is in its early stage of formulation and young people's participation is increasingly being sought.
  • Government commitment to work towards MTCT reduction - AZT drugs ordered and training in Voluntary and Confidential Counselling and Testing (VCCT) ongoing Child welfare forum/child abuse clinics/victim friendly courts and units within the police established HIV/AIDS awareness level is high among the population - over 90%. However, the adoption of positive behaviours has been scanty.
  • Materials and skills developed for AIDS education transferred to community based cadres and mobilisers
  • Alliances built and strengthened with GoZ, NGOs, CBOs at all levels
  • Collaboration with UNAIDS co-sponsors and donor community strengthened
Has a formal evaluation been performed? Please elaborate.
  • Formal evaluations have been conducted both internally by UNICEF and externally by donors. These evaluations have helped to refocus intervention strategies where they have been weak and reinforce those that have been successful. Key issues and lessons learnt include:
    • School-community linkages are crucial for the success of the programme.
    • Information diffusion models for HIV/AIDS prevention do not influence behaviour change. Information and knowledge must be backed by motivation, skills and effective services.
    • Proper use of participatory methodologies in life skills transfer is crucial.
    • Teacher training through cascade model cannot ensure quality. Pre- and in-service training is needed to ensure support and follow-up supervision.
    • The need to address the capacity of the family and the community to share and sustain support to orphans and children in need is critical.
    • Participation of adolescents and young people in programming is crucial.
    • A community-based approach to programming is essential. Community capacity building is therefore vital.
    • Government and political commitment facilitate the much-needed enabling environment for HIV/AIDS prevention. What were the main constraints in meeting the project objectives?
    • Government and political commitment not yet translated into resource allocation
    • Continued denial and resistance to openness about the AIDS crisis
    • Sustainability and ownership remain problematic
    • Highly centralised systems hamper programme implementation
    • Inadequate Information Management Systems at all levels
    • Inadequate Child/Youth coordinating body
    • Lack of policies for young people and an environment that is not conducive to the development of adolescents and youth
    • Declining Government capacity
Lessons Learned/Recommendations/What would you do differently if you could do it over?
  • Advocate and lobby for Government and political commitment from an early stage. This is critical for halting the AIDS epidemic.
  • Consultations with key players and involvement of young people in programming and implementation are crucial
  • Information and knowledge alone will not facilitate adoption of positive sexual behaviours. Services and a conducive environment remain vital
  • Cascade model Teacher Training is not totally effective
  • Recognition of the role of the family unit, e.g. parents/caregivers halting the AIDS epidemic is crucial
  • Research findings must be used for advocacy and social mobilisation
  • Sustainability and ownership of interventions can be enhanced by improved target group participation

What program support tools/resources were developed that can be used/adapted by other country offices?

  • Reading materials
  • Life skills education for HIV/AIDS prevention books were developed for youth in school from primary education (Grade 4) to secondary education (Form 5)
  • Life skills education magazines have also been developed for youth out of school in English and vernacular languages such as "Body Talk" series, "Straight Talk" and "New Generation" newspapers targeting adolescents and youth.
  • Other books include "Facts About AIDS", "Living with HIV/AIDS", "AIDS Questions and Answers"
  • Use of media through newspapers and magazines
  • Electronic materials
    • Rural outreach programmes through mobile cinema. Videos produced and shown include Let the Children Talk; No Need to Blame; Facts About AIDS; Mashambanzou (Dawn of a new day); and Nherera Ndedzedu (Orphans belong to us)
    • Radio and Television programmes
  • Other promotional educational materials such as t-shirts, caps, posters, pamphlets with HIV/AIDS prevention messages have also been developed.

Youth Perspective: Adolescents and Youth peer educators in Gweru speaking on youth participation say, "ALL WITH US, OR NOTHING WITHOUT US".

Source of Information: Micaela Marques Project Officer UNICEF - Zimbabwe