READY to Lead
READY to Lead is a new project within the READY portfolio focused on the power of girls and young women in Zimbabwe to instigate change in policies that impact their health.
Why focus on adolescent girls and young women?
The HIV epidemic in young people in Zimbabwe is heavily influenced by gender inequalities. Adolescent girls and young women are at much greater risk of HIV infection than their male peers because of social norms and practices. Early – and frequently coerced or forced – sexual debut, early and forced child marriage, gender-based violence, intergenerational sex and low rates of male testing and voluntary male circumcision contribute to making young women more vulnerable to HIV.
Young women often describe health facilities as judgemental and “sex negative” spaces, where they are not able to freely discuss their HIV and sexual and reproductive health needs.
In health facilities and the community, adolescent girls and young women living with HIV also face stigma and discrimination, which can make it difficult for them to complete their education, get a job, form relationships, and fully participate in society.
Young women have also expressed specific challenges in getting a seat at the table and having the space to speak up on issues that affect them.
About READY to Lead
READY to Lead will build on ongoing work in Zimbabwe by strengthening leadership and advocacy skills of young women involved as peer supporters in the READY+ project. They will receive training and mentoring and will work with existing READY+ clinical and community-based peer supporters to listen to the experiences of adolescents and young women living with HIV. They will then identify ways to advocate for these issues in decision-making spaces.
Over the course of this project, the young women leaders will, in turn, become mentors of other young women. They will act as role models to other peer supporters, provide leadership in community dialogues by expressing the needs and rights of adolescents and young people living with HIV and supporting others to do so, and use their technical knowledge on sexual and reproductive health to champion youth-friendly, high quality and tailored clinical services.
Additionally, the young women leaders will hold district and national health authorities to account by monitoring the national budget for HIV and sexual and reproductive health for young people. They will also monitor the implementation of the national HIV and AIDS strategic plan and the national adolescent sexual and reproductive health strategy.
The young women leaders will champion these issues from the local level all the way up to national level bodies such as President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Country Operating Plan processes (PEPFAR COPs), and Global Fund Country Co-ordinating Mechanisms, and into international campaigns.
READY to Lead is funded by Comic Relief and implemented by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Zimbabwe Young Positives (ZY+) and ATHENA.