Sport serves as a safe zone for vulnerable girls

By Byron Mutingwende


The girl child is the most vulnerable in the community due to a multiplicity of factors, chief among them gender based violence. In an effort to create safe zones for the girl child against this menace, the Zimbabwe Community Health Intervention Research (ZICHIRe) behaviour change project has introduced sporting activities targeting this group.


Under the Sista2Sista project, ZICHIRe held a netball and volleyball competition for the vulnerable girls aged 10-24 years at the Macheka Square in Zengeza in Chitungwiza on 15 December 2017.


“As ZICHIRe we are seeking to transform lives by creating safe spaces and a conducive environment for every girl and young woman where they are able to make right and informed decisions about their lives,” said Kudakwashe Mashoko, the ZICHIRe Chitungwiza District Programmes Officer.


Itai Gwatsvaira, the ZICHIRe mentor for Ward 3 in Zengeza corroborated Mashoko’s words by revealing that the girl children are taught social, financial and self-awareness in the Sista2Sista clubs.


“Within the Sista2Sista clubs, we target the vulnerable girls aged 10-24 years. To be eligible for the clubs, the girls undergo a risk assessment. We also involve behaviour change facilitators in our programming as you can see from their presence at this sporting gala,” Gwatsvaira said.


Artwell Gwatidzo, a behaviour change facilitator from Unit K of Seke in Chitungwiza highlighted that it was crucial to educate the young girls on the importance of abstinence in the era of sexually transmitted infections.


A girl (18), a beneficiary of the Sista2Sista programme who chose to identify herself as Sarah said the sporting activities offered her the opportunity to socialise with her peers and learn from others about how to defend her sexual reproductive health rights.


“Before joining Sista2Sista Clubs, I was reckless with my life to the extent that I had multiple partners and was always diagnosed with STIs. Besides, I had occasional moments of depression and always contemplated suicide because I thought as an orphan from a child-headed family I would never find my way out of the hardships of life. These sporting activities have helped me physically and mentally because I now socialise and share ideas with my peers, mentors and behaviour change facilitators,” Sarah said.


Emengilda Mungarangadza, another behaviour change facilitator said a plethora of topics are taught to the girls in the clubs. These revolve around gender based violence, male circumcision, prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), family planning, couple HIV testing, cervical cancer screening, multi-concurrent partnerships, and proper use of condoms among others.


Justice Gweshe, a netball trainer in the Harare City Council who also coaches the Sista2Sista girls said the sporting activities initiated by ZICHIRe offers clubs from the community to scout for talent from the clubs.


“There are many clubs here in Chitungwiza which are involved in sport development. These include the Chitungwiza Girls Netball Club, the Girls and Women Empowerment Club and SayWhat just to mention a few. They now have a pool to scout for talent in the Sista2Sista clubs,” Gweshe said.


Don Mashaka, a fellow netball trainer appealed for sponsorship to buy uniforms and training balls for the girls so as to have continuous training sessions to develop the untapped talent among the girls and young women.


The Sista2Sista clubs have helped local communities in knowing where to access health services and have been effective in promoting positive behaviour change and reduced incidences of child marriages. To ZICHIRe, the campaign against gender-based violence is an everyday matter and the empowerment of the girl child is their motto.