Key UN agency proposes partnership with First Lady

THE United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has expressed willingness to partner health ambassador First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in stepping up advocacy on sexual reproductive health, family planning, gender-based violence (GBV) and drug abuse.

This is in recognition of her hard work and passion to transform the lives of the country’s citizens.

The envisaged partnership was disclosed by UNFPA regional director for East and Southern Africa Mrs Lydia Zigomo and the organisation’s representative in Zimbabwe, Ms Miranda Tabifor, who met the First Lady at her offices in Harare yesterday.

The two senior officials also congratulated the mother of the nation for successfully hosting the First Ladies high level conference which attracted other African First Ladies, stakeholders in HIV/Aids response from across the globe as well as networks of people living with HIV/Aids.

Ms Zigomo praised the First Lady for her hard work, especially on the health of women and girls, and congratulated her for successfully hosting other First Ladies over the weekend, who extensively debated wide ranging humanitarian issues.

“Today we paid a courtesy call on the First lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa to discuss the successful and just held high-level meeting in Victoria Falls which she hosted for a number of First Ladies from Africa. As the United Nations and also other stakeholders, we congratulate Her Excellency Amai Mnangagwa for successfully hosting the conference and ensuring that issues of young girls, particularly teenagers, were again at the forefront. 

“The First Ladies of Africa through  OAFLAD (Organisation of African First Ladies), are doing a lot to address unacceptably high levels of teenage pregnancy. We still find that Aids has a female face. More young women, girls and adolescents continue to be the site of new HIV infections in Africa. Of 210 000 adolescent and young women were infected with HIV in 2022, 63 percent of them were in sub-Saharan Africa. 

“The work the First Ladies are doing is pleasing. In Zimbabwe, Amai Mnangagwa is working tirelessly to curb this. In being able to bring together other First Ladies to shine a light on the fact that we still need to work around issues of young girls and adolescents in terms of preventing HIV infections as well as also looking at issues around how HIV is fuelled on the continent linked to Gender-Based Violence and teen pregnancies, we must applaud Dr Mnangagwa,” she said.

She said through her Angel of Hope Foundation, Amai Mnangagwa was doing remarkable work in Zimbabwe.

“Through her foundation, she is working with everyone from the youths, women and men. She is not leaving anyone behind. 

“She has been shining a light on so many areas. We are proud of her work in which she is scaling up issues of mental health mainly caused by drug addiction. 

“Drug abuse is another way in which HIV and STIs are spread among our young people and therefore we need to note issues of drug addiction and mental health within the spectrum of problems that young people not only in Zimbabwe but around the world are facing,” she said.

Ms Tabifor paid glowing tribute for the work the First Lady is doing and hinted on the areas in which UNFPA sought to partner her.

“We are exceptionally grateful for the excellent work that the First Lady of Zimbabwe is engaging to transform the lives of women, young people in this country. To solidify, strengthen and build on the excellent foundation that she has put in place we, as UNFPA, commit to work with her to step up the advocacy first on sexual reproductive health and rights. In that area we are going to be looking at how we do the engagements in terms of the mobile clinics. 

“She has got mobile clinics that she engages with local communities to reach those rural women who are pregnant, young girls, the adolescent youth. That is one of the areas on sexual reproductive health focusing on mothers and young people. The other area that we want to build on what she has been doing is on family planning,” she said.

The First Lady, Ms Tabifor noted, has done a lot on health and all they wanted was to solidify her interventions.

“Now we are going to do integrated services for young girls and mothers to make choices on when they want to have babies and the right time. We know that Amai is very instrumental in addressing these areas and she deserves our support,” she said. 

Gender-based violence, the UNFPA representative said, was another area in which they wanted to work with the mother of the nation.

“The third area is that of gender-based violence and harmful practices. 

“We talked about teenage pregnancies. Teenage pregnancy is a form of gender-based violence. She did excellent work in 2019 by launching a national campaign which she is still spearheading up to now. 

“In support of the good works, we are stepping up that campaign and we want to collaborate with her and attack that “not in my village”. It has to be done through a multi-sectoral approach. 

“In summary we are reiterating our commitment to work with the First lady to drive this agenda that she has started and she has a critical space and a critical role to play and we look forward to working with her,” she said.

Dr Mnangagwa said there was a need to work as a united team to get rid of the mentioned challenges affecting societies especially women and the girl child.

“All what we want is to see problems sailing through. We all have a role to play.

“We have also this drugs and substance abuse menace which is now affecting both boys and girls and I think the First Lady’s Office needs to be supported to start programmes with these young ones, particularly looking at boys and girls to take them out of this social ill so that they can do better in their lives.

“If we do that now, they know that we have passed on the button to them to say this is not good, take this upon yourselves to change and be the future. Engaging them and giving them an opportunity and chance to do better in life is the best way to go. 

“I believe that the core business is to engage both boys and girls to come up with programmes and projects for them. As we are going together as a team, we need to come up with programmes for these young ones and to interact directly with them. To them it’s very important. We need to work directly with them, listening to them so that we can sit down with them and map a way forward,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa said she would come up with suggestions and programmes and advised her working partners to do the same so that they combine forces,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa told her guests how she recently launched a massive skills development project in Mbare, Harare, for children living on the streets and drug abusers.

The complex, she said, becomes the skills development centre for Harare Metropolitan province, where children from the streets and around the community will receive training in various projects, including agriculture, carpentry, dressmaking, cooking and sporting activities.

Responding to the First Lady on the issue of drug menace which is leading to mental health challenges, Ms Zigomo said: “You are doing splendid work Amai. In tackling these issues,  you are so right because we don’t always pay attention and in our culture mental health, is not something that you talk about openly. 

“In addressing the drug problem you have also to deal with the underlying mental health challenges and i am glad you giving them something, training them, empowering them thus giving them new hope and a new vision about their lives. 

“It is commendable work because it’s important. You are on the right track Amai and whenever we can we will support you”.

Herald

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