This International Youth Day we want to recognise young people’s resilience in the face of this pandemic, and how so many have taken action to help their communities respond and recover. This is Nyasha’s story.
Driving community-led change during COVID-19.
Nyasha, 24, is from Ushewokunze suburb, in the southern area of Harare, Zimbabwe.
Her community has no health facility, no proper water system or sewer system and most people’s livelihoods, like her own, are based on day to day vending – the buying and selling of goods such as vegetables or clothes.
Because of the lockdown, I had no source of income as I couldn’t do my hustle.Nyasha Dangarembizi
It’s a similar story for many across Zimbabwe.
Resilience requires organising.
With the support of Restless Development, a team of 20 young people across Zimbabwe, including Nyasha, took it upon themselves to volunteer within their communities to spread awareness to stop the spread about COVID-19. Nyasha’s passion to see young people address challenges in her community also inspired her to volunteer with the Peak Youth Tackling HIV Program being implemented by Restless Development in Hopely Farm and Ushewekunze (Harare South).
The training I received from Restless Development provided me with the skills and knowledge needed to help my community respond to COVID-19. I learned that the key thing is to practice social distancing and hygiene. I also learnt a lot of powerful misconceptions that were flying around and I now demystify these wrong messages among my peers.Nyasha Dangarembizi
“I have been raising awareness on COVID-19 prevention measures as well as how to respond to someone who is suspected to have been infected or who is showing symptoms of COVID-19.“
“I have also been gathering information on how young people are coping during the pandemic and raising awareness on other communicable diseases such as cholera and typhoid as my community is at high risk.“
“We are doing our best to ensure that people have the information they need to keep safe.“
Bridging the gap between communities and local governments.
Nyasha and the other volunteers on this project are all working in their own communities, reaching out to people at their homes and other hotspots such as marketplaces and water points to reach as many people as possible.
Volunteering in my own community has been very helpful as many young people listen to me and follow my example.Nyasha Dangarembizi
They have already surpassed their initial target, reaching over 300 households with life-saving messages. The volunteers use their mobile phones and notepads to record their findings when in the field and report back to their supporting supervisors.
We then share the information we gather with the national task-force on COVID-19 as well as local and district leaders to influence how they support us to respond to COVID-19 and other issues facing young people.Nyasha Dangarembizi
Acting as ‘Community Navigators’, Nyasha’s work will build a bridge between the live situation in communities and influence the government’s response.
Advancing sexual and reproductive health rights despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Nyasha did not let COVID-19 restrictions stop her from reaching out to and sharing information sexual and reproductive health with young people in her community. There is a lack of clinics or youth-centers offering youth-friendly health services. With the support of Restless Development, Nyasha was able to engage with young people as young as 10 through sessions on sexual and reproductive health and life skills.
I have been able to share the rights and responsibilities that young women and girls have towards their sexual reproductive health and general well-being” through the sessions and campaigns.Nyasha Dangarembizi
Resilience requires resourcing
Nyasha and the other volunteers have been receiving ongoing guidance support from the City Health Department as well as staff from Restless Development and National AIDS Council.
“They give us updated information on the virus as new information emerges and we have been given information on how to protect ourselves as well as full protective equipment including face masks, sanitizers and clearance letters as essential workers, to be able to move around under lock-down.”
I am very proud to say I have been a member of a team of fearless young people who took it upon themselves to volunteer within their communities to spread awareness about the pandemic.Nyasha Dangarembizi