SAfAIDS in partnership with Sonke Gender Justice is implementing a 2-year gender programme that seeks to transform gender roles and promote more gender-equitable relationships in order to reduce HIV and gender-based violence (GBV) and promote positive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in Zimbabwe. Launched in 2015, Changing the River's Flow - A Gender Transformative Programme for Young People (CTRF 4 YP) is intended for young people in hard-to-reach areas like farms and mining communities. The programme's activities are designed to transform harmful cultural practices and social norms by engaging all levels of the community through workshops and dialogue sessions that promote positive gender norms and values, transform harmful gender norms, and reduce harmful cultural and religious practices that can lead to unsafe sexual behaviour and HIV infections.

Communication Strategies: 

The main intended audience of the programme is adolescent boys and girls (10-14 years) and young people (aged 15-24 years). A total of 720 young people will be reached directly with interventions in four districts in Zimbabwe (namely, Chiredzi, Hwange, Nyanga, and Seke). In total, 10,000 adolescents and young people in hard-to-reach areas that include farming and mining areas will be reached, including young people living with HIV (YPLHIV) and those living with disabilities. Secondary groups intended to be reached include institutions that work with adolescent and young boys and girls in transformative work and the gatekeepers and the circle of care of young people: traditional, religious, and political leaders; service providers; government representatives; and teachers, parents/guardians, and caregivers within the programme districts.

The programme draws from Sonke's gender transformative approach and SAfAIDS' Changing the River's Flow Models, which transform gender relations to promote equality through critical reflections and questioning of institutional practices and broader social norms found in Zimbabwe. "A unique principle of this programme, is that it does not begin by condemning existing cultural practices and norms. Rather, it catalyzes in-depth analysis of the linkages between culture, HIV and women's rights. And thus, methodically identifies high-impact entry points for influencing positive cultural transformation at community level, that result in a repeal of vulnerability to HIV."

The project is implementing the following activities:

  • Sonke will provide training to strengthen capacity of SAfAIDS staff and its four local partners on gender norms transformation theory, programme implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Participants in these training sessions will become master trainers on gender norms transformation skills, who will cascade training to Community Gender Transformation Facilitators (CGTFs).
  • The CGTFs will then roll out training with young people, schools, and community clubs, and facilitate community actions with leaders and parents. Their function is to strengthen the capacity of 720 young people (10-24 years) in and out of 24 schools (6 per district) to practice equitable gender norms, practices, and attitudes. Click here for information about the facilitator's manual, which was developed by the programme.
  • The CGTFs will also run sessions to strengthen the capacity of 300 community leaders (including religious and traditional leaders) and 200 parents to reduce harmful cultural and religious practices that promote inequitable gender norms, risk for HIV, and GBV.
  • The programme undertakes policy advocacy and provides technical input into national policy and development processes.
  • Through programme monitoring and documentation, the project also seeks to promote learning and sharing of the intervention.
Development Issues: 

HIV, Gender, Youth, Culture

Key Points: 

Rationale for the programme:
“Zimbabwe is mainly a patriarchal society in which boys and girls are taught from early childhood to internalize societal messages about how males and females are expected to behave, who makes decisions, and where power dynamics lie. These behaviors contribute to reinforcing unequal gender roles and responsibilities that culminate into high risk of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. Such norms among young men and boys include early sexual activity, multiple sex partners, gender based violence and sexual dominance that increase vulnerability to contracting and spreading HIV. Despite growing understanding that gender transformation, including shifting gender power dynamics and norms are critical to realizing sexual and reproductive health, very few interventions have attempted to effectively address these norms in a sustainable and large scale fashion.”

Key findings of a baseline survey:
The programme conducted a baseline survey to help determine perceptions, attitudes, and practices of boys and girls (in and out of school) towards gender norms and equality within schools and communities; to determine perceptions, attitudes and practices of parents, guardians, and community leaders around gender norms and the gender socialisation of boys and girls; and to assess to what extent the school and community environment is conducive to gender equality.

In summary, the survey found that:   

  •     The low level of knowledge on HIV and SRH and rights among young people is concerning and calls for special attention to address this gap;
  •     Harmful gender norms and practices are real hindrances to the fight against HIV and AIDS;
  •     Findings are consistent with expectations and other similar surveys in general; and
  •     Findings confirm the relevance of the programme in the targeted areas and audience.

Ciick here for the Baseline Assessment Reports. 

Partner Text: 

SafAIDS and Sonke Gender Justice