Written by Edinah Masiyiwa, Women’s Action Group, Zimbabwe
Some of the information will not be so relevant to the current situation, but we think this guide offers useful advice to SRHR advocates.
Our work is mostly face-to-face so, with the lockdown we had to work with partners to facilitate access to contraception for the women and girls we support. We have seen gender-based violence (GBV) rise during lockdown and also increased stress on women from providing home-based care during the health crisis. As most people are in informal economies there are also food shortages and a lot of profiteering.
Emergency financial support is slow in coming, and many vulnerable groups are missing out because they are often only viewed within certain issue contexts.
For example, sex workers seen only in light of HIV, when of course they also face the same challenges as others, like food shortages. Because of the nature of the crisis and the work we do, our workload has become 24/7, sometimes receiving calls for help at midnight. We do everything we can to help but also try to carve out time ‘off’ in order not to burn out.
In crises the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, of which we are a member, comes together for a coordinated response, e.g. during the cyclone last year, and we have learned to plan ahead.
We have few COVID-19 cases but hold ‘What If?’ meetings for forward planning. We facilitate access to contraceptives and SRH services through partners and outreach. At Women’s Action Group (WAG) we purchased PPE to distribute to district COVID-19 response teams, with a strategy of training trainers who will then go to the communities.
Edinah Masiyiwa is a nurse, midwife and well-known advocate and activist for women’s health and rights. She has written extensively on abortion rights and sits on the Global Fund for HIV and AIDS Country Coordinating Mechanism in Zimbabwe. She is a holder of an advanced course in Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights from Lund University (Sweden), a masters degree in Development Studies, and a Certificate in General Nursing. Edinah is the Executive Director of Women’s Action Group.