• [Image: Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda]

    Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda


    World YWCA

    “We need donors to trust community organizations to innovate. My experience with the Trust was that it was a tiny initiative borne out of the pain in my family, in this big family, almost a football team. Three of my siblings died of HIV-related illnesses, and two of my siblings have mental health problems. Out of this we said, let’s innovate to transform the community-based social protection network – within the family and community – into a more established district-level resource. Now with this massive outreach in many communities, I feel this is something based in the experience of many people. It’s about how we translate pain into creativity. At times there are not enough resources and trust to believe we can scale up this small initiative. But it is do-able. We sit with people and let them elaborate on their pain and experiences, and help them to turn their vulnerability into power. With this approach, people are not just beneficiaries, but also a source of inspiration for the work we achieve. I always imagine if my mother had had access to family planning, if she’d been able to give birth in a health centre, what kind of information would she have received? She may have had a totally different experience.”

    “We need the US to ratify CEDAW. There is usually an argument that human rights policies are external to our context in Africa, and support is received from the US, for example, but we lose legitimacy and the US loses legitimacy because they haven’t ratitfied CEDAW. I support the efforts the US has made – it’s great to have an ambassador for women’s issues, yet we still need the US to ratify the conventions as part of sustaining the moral voice and accountability to citizens.”

    “Governments need to invest in young people in a way that enables them to both claim their rights and access services. This requires a significant approach to reach young people, it requires creating a movement for social change. It’s not sufficient to do one or two projects. It means investing in the demand side, especially enabling young women to negotiate personal, social, technical or institutional barriers. These women must be able to inform the quality of policy, because within that is sustainability – you are not just investing in a policy that’s relevant today, but for the next 30–40 years. This means investing in the difficult process of changing social norms. It’s easier to talk about how to ensure every clinic has the supplies it needs, but it’s harder to invest consistently in relation to the rights of women or young people to get family planning, especially with religious or cultural leaders. This needs to be done in a way that gives the power and voice to the women and young people. Development cooperation talks about results. The indicators are quantitative, but so many of the issues we face in communities is around changing attitudes, behaviours and relationships. This requires a new type of relationship with increased direct support to women’s and youth organizations in communities. It takes time to build confidence in communities, so the project approach may not be sufficient to measure results. The world YWCA is both a faith organization and a women’s rights organization, whicht embraces feminist approaches. There is no contradiction at all between being a woman claiming her rights and a woman claiming her faith. We hould not make women choose because culture and faith, as well as rights, are all part of their identity. I feel this is missing in most development work.”

    “While family planning may be the end product, around it is a bundle of other rights: to education, information and decision making. So investment in family planning gives a much wider range of benefits to society than just health improvements, or just educational outcomes. Family planning fosters a stronger quality of relationships between men and women. We don’t really measure this – what is the quality of relationships because the moment I talk about family planning with my husband, we’re able to talk about a range of other issues, such as children, career paths, possibilities. By opening an opportunity for discussion about family planning, we are also empowering couples to talk about the wellbeing of their families. The more you discuss family planning openly within families and communities, you are able to talk about domestic violence, marital rape, it offers all those other possibilities. You can talk about youth-friendly services as a way to respond to different needs at different stages of people’s lives, and about the role of parents, guardians and others in sexuality education and supporting children. People say there is conservatism, but I say there is also responsibility. We need society to continue to be responsible. Being responsible does not mean being restrictive.”