Baseline Report on the State of Sexual and Reproduction Health Rights (SRHR) for Women Human Rights Defenders (WRHDs) and Political Activists in Zimbabwe

Executive Summary

This research is a baseline survey on the prevailing situation of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and political activists with regards to their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). The survey reached out to 500 women in Midlands, Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, Masvingo, Manicaland and Harare provinces. Participants were purposively selected for their work in human rights, leadership and activism. Key findings show that there is unmet need and shortage of services and supplies which address SRHR needs due to the ongoing economic crisis. There is also challenges on a constrained policy and cultural environment which impact negatively on women satisfying their SRHR needs. Key recommendations are for policy interventions at different levels, attitudinal changes and educational and information programmes targeting communities. Awareness raising and trainings on SRHR must be offered within institutions and political parties.

Introduction

Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) undertook this baseline survey on the prevailing situation of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and political activists with regards to their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). This was after realizing that Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and political activists lack adequate awareness on their sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and are often vulnerable within their work space and where they operate. This lack of awareness and vulnerability places WHRDs and political activists at risk and also adversely affects their work and rights. More critically, the SRHR gaps directly affect the ability of women to freely and fully participate in leadership and democratic processes.

The survey was also used to evaluate if the country is in course to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 3 (SDG 3) which speaks of ensuring healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.

Specifically, the survey looked at subsection 3.7 which aims to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes by 2030. This is more important because according to the GuttmacherInstitute1, 38% of young Zimbabwean women have had sex by age 18 and this age keeps dropping, while a quarter of young women between 15-19 years have started childbearing with a third of these births being unplanned.

While contraceptive use increased between 2009 and 2013, the current rising costs of the product and its unavailability in some health centers is a cause for concern and has a direct impact on the SRHR situation of women in Zimbabwe.

The overall aim of the research was to establish the prevailing SRHR situation on the status of WHRDs and political activists and present recommendations on how to address these. This was done by assessing the existing levels of knowledge on the subject, existing perceptions and attitudes and proposed interventions which can be undertaken.

Therefore, this report presents a snapshot of the prevailing SRHR situation for WHRDs and political activists in Zimbabwe. It draws focus on the prevailing situation using the existing information from the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (2015) and also the data from the participants in the survey.

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Source: Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)