Young people in rural Zimbabwe have limited access to basic education and struggle to develop marketable personal and vocational skills. The education system is weak and combined with a lack of employment opportunities, this leaves young people without skills or resources to fulfill their potential and increasingly vulnerable to exploitative and risky relationships. Lack of hope and opportunity leads to high levels of school drop-out, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, HIV and substance abuse. As young people struggle to navigate the years between adolescence and adulthood, little guidance is available to them and they have difficulty generating enough income to take control of their lives and remain above the poverty line.
Tshitshi ward of Mangwe District, Matabeleland South is close to the borders with South Africa and Botswana, prompting many young people to illegally cross the borders in search of elusive jobs and livelihood opportunities. Often they are exploited and coerced into lives of crime, sex work and drugs.
Restless Development implemented a Youth Empowerment Programme in the area of livelihoods and health. We partnered with Matabeleland AIDS Council (MAC), to raise awareness of health issues through sporting events and carried out life skills guidance sessions.
We established STAR (Societies Tackling AIDS through Rights) Circles and trained Volunteer Peer Educators (VPEs) to mobilise young people to participate. VPEs opened up debate around taboo issues such as sexual and reproductive health, and HIV positive speakers provided firsthand insights into the challenges they have faced. A youth-friendly resource centre was established at the local clinic. We ran career guidance sessions and invited speakers to relate their experiences of accessing the professions. We provided personalised support to help young people develop their career plans and pursue relevant education and training.
‘Exposure to career guidance and counseling session opened up a new world for me. I previously did not know that such opportunities existed and could be accessed by people like me in the rural areas.’
Lipha Ngwenya, now a student nurse at St Luke’s Brunapeg Nursing School