Campaigning to keep condoms fashionable

Condoms are an essential commodity and the dual protection they provide mean they are fashionably timeless. If not for demonstrating contemporary health consciousness, it illustrates a caring trait that makes for fulfilling relations.

International and regional bodies with the leadership of the Ministries of Health have taken a leading role in ensuring that comprehensive condom programming is one of the key points of interventions for health programmes implemented nationally.

Students And Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) has been implementing the Condomize Campaign since its launch in Zimbabwe in December 2015. The Condomize Campaign is a partnership between United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Condom Project. SAYWHAT has been the lead implementer of the Campaign coordinating volunteers and partner organisation. The Ministry of Health and Child Care, with the support of UNFPA and National AIDS Council provide overall leadership.

The Campaign uses evidence to attract and captivate its audience.  It also uses intense colour, creative performances and edutainment activities.  The ultimate aim is to create interest which is necessary for the comfort required in discussing condom use.

The campaign has integrated on site service provision in partnership with organisations that include Population Services International (PSI), Population Services Zimbabwe (PSZ), Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council. (ZNFPC), Adult Rape Clinic and others. Services offered include HIV Testing Services, Family Planning, Gender Based Violence Psycho Social Support Services, and counselling. Since its inception in 2015 the campaign has reached out to communities and colleges in Masvingo, Ngundu, Chimanimani, Bulawayo, Mutare, Bindura, Kwekwe, Chegutu, Murehwa, Mutoko and Harare through physical campaigns.

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying containment measures which included a national lockdown resulted in SAYWHAT transitioning from physical to online campaign activities. Online Campaigns have maintained all of the standard Condomize Campaigns components except clinical service provision. While online campaigns could not provide clinical services, it has reached out to many young people beyond the colleges.

Since the first online campaign on 09 July 2020, the campaign has cumulatively reached over 142 000 viewers with comprehensive information on condom programming and other related themes such as COVID-19, GBV and mental health. The 2 key aspects of education and entertainment have been captured very well during the online campaigns through engaging master educators and popular artistes like Jah Master, Travor Dongo, Sniper, Freeman and Friends.

The campaign has been affected by limited to no access to sexual and reproductive health services particularly condoms from public health facilities. Physical campaigns ensured that publicised services and condoms were available onsite for campaign attendants to utilise. This is not possible for virtual platforms. This is a gap that requires urgent attention as we are creating demand for a product that is not readily accessible due to lockdown regulations.

Overall, the Campaign has been instrumental in keeping young people entertained and informed about the new realities presented by COVID-19. SAYWHAT broadcasted 5 Condomize campaigns in 2020. The protective effect of condoms is undoubted, that they are fashionably timeless is beyond question and so is the reality that the Condomize campaign is key in keeping condoms on the agenda even in the context of a lockdown.

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