By Lovejoy Mutongwiza
A group of students and youths working on reproductive health action team has published a research book that exposes the challenges faced by young people in Zimbabwe, especially in the context of economic hardships and social exclusion.
The book, titled Empowering Young Voices: Unveiling the Hidden Realities of Young People in Zimbabwe, covers topics such as mental health and rights, disability inclusion, sexual harassment, drug and substance abuse, and empowerment of young girls and women.
The book is based on the findings of the SAYWHAT young researchers initiative project, which involved 10 undergraduate students from various tertiary institutions in Southern Africa.
The project aimed to nurture skills and interest in research among young people, and to enable them to tell their own stories for rounded and nuanced research narratives.
The book was launched at a research indaba held on World Aids Day, which emphasised the pivotal role of communities in driving change.
The event was attended by the Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Per Lindgarde, who praised the importance of research in informing national debates, policies and practices, and in promoting sustainable development and poverty reduction.
The book also highlights the issue of drug and substance abuse among young people in Zimbabwe, which has been worsened by the economic crisis and the lack of opportunities and support.
According to the book, many young people resort to drugs as a coping mechanism, or as a way of escaping from their harsh realities. The book calls for more awareness and intervention programmes to address this problem, and to empower young people to make healthy and informed choices.
The SAYWHAT Executive Director, Jimmy Wilford, invited more partners to collaborate with the SAYWHAT research unit, and to utilise the evidence collected from primary data in the past 20 years.
He said that SAYWHAT has a mandate that revolves around advocacy and lobbying, which requires to be grounded by evidence from structured inquiry.
He also said that SAYWHAT has been active in ensuring that young people have the right information regarding sexual reproductive health, and that they are involved in the conversations that concern them.
He said that the book is part of the young people taking the centre stage in addressing the issues that affect them.