International Youth Day

On the occasion of International Youth Day, Students And Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) proudly commemorates 20 years of unwavering advocacy for the public health, educational rights, and socioeconomic empowerment of young people in Zimbabwe and beyond.


Celebrated under the theme “Green Skills for Youth: Towards A Sustainable World,” SAYWHAT recognises the crucial link between environmental sustainability and the well-being of individuals, particularly young people. The connection underscores the need for comprehensive action to address climate change and its impact on sexual reproductive health.


Climate change poses significant risks to sexual reproductive health. The intensification of environmental factors such as increased temperatures, extreme weather events, and changing precipitation patterns exacerbates existing health challenges. As a result a rise in vector-borne diseases will be observed, including those transmitted through sexual contact, such as Zika and dengue. Additionally, natural disasters and displacement disrupt healthcare services, limiting access to contraception, maternal care, and HIV/AIDS prevention, leaving individuals vulnerable and impeding their choices.


As we commemorate the International Youth Day, it is crucial to recognise that climate change disproportionately affects women and girls, which directly impacts their sexual reproductive health. Societal norms and traditional gender roles often create barriers to healthcare access and vital information. Women and girls may face difficulties in managing menstruation, accessing maternal healthcare, and navigating sexual relationships. The compounding effects of climate change, including increased poverty and food insecurity, increase the risk of sexual exploitation and intimate partner violence, aggravating existing challenges in this domain.


Environmental degradation resulting from climate change has far-reaching consequences for public health, including sexual reproductive health. Deforestation, air pollution, and water contamination contribute to the spread of diseases, compromising sexual reproductive health outcomes. Air pollution adversely affects pregnant women and developing fetuses, leading to adverse birth outcomes. Chemical pollutants in water sources affect fertility, hormonal balance, and can contribute to reproductive disorders. Furthermore, the degradation of ecosystems diminishes vital natural resources required for livelihoods and healthcare provision.


SAYWHAT is appealing to the Zimbabwean government and all authorities in Africa to prioritise environmentally sustainable practices which are key to safeguarding public health. Mitigation efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions not only benefit the environment but also improve health outcomes. Advocating for cleaner energy sources, sustainable transportation, and improved waste management reduces carbon footprints and enhances air quality and overall well-being. More efforts and investments should be channelled towards climate change education and awareness campaigns so that communities relate with the environment on informed basis.


SAYWHAT takes this opportunity to remind African governments and the world over that promoting green skills and sustainable practices, creates safe and conducive environments for young people to excel in their various professions. Empowering the youth with comprehensive education on climate change and sexual reproductive health equips them with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions, act, and advocate for inclusive policies. Engaging youth in decision-making processes, supporting their innovations, and amplifying their voices are essential for creating a future where both the environment and public health thrive.


Recognising and addressing the intricate relationship between climate change and public health, especially sexual reproductive health, is critical for achieving sustainable development goals. It requires collective efforts, involving governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to adopt green practices, prioritize healthcare access, and empower young people to create a healthier and more sustainable world for everyone.


As a youth-led organisation, SAYWHAT remains dedicated to ensuring that the voices and rights of young individuals are respected, their well-being is protected, and they have equal opportunities to thrive and contribute to society. The students led movement firmly upholds the fundamental right to accessible and comprehensive public health services for young people in Zimbabwe.


SAYWHAT acknowledges the barriers faced by young individuals, particularly those who have experienced early pregnancies leading to school dropout. We firmly believe that every young person, irrespective of their circumstances, deserves access to quality education. We advocate for inclusive educational policies, support systems, and innovative mechanisms that enable vulnerable young individuals to continue their education, ensuring that their dreams and aspirations are not compromised by past challenges. By advocating for affordable and equitable educational opportunities, SAYWHAT seeks to create a future where every young person can reach their full potential.


SAYWHAT strongly condemns any violation of the sexual and reproductive health rights of young people. We firmly uphold the principle that every young person deserves respect, autonomy, and dignity when it comes to matters concerning their bodies and relationships. SAYWHAT urges stakeholders, including policymakers, educators, and healthcare providers, to prioritize the fulfilment of young people’s SRH rights including promoting comprehensive sex education, ensuring access to contraceptives, addressing gender inequalities, and eliminating harmful practices that negatively impact the lives of young individuals.


SAYWHAT recognises the economic barriers that hinder many young people from accessing higher education in Zimbabwe. We stand in solidarity with students and call for a reduction in high tuition fees at tertiary institutions. We advocate for an inclusive education system that is accessible to all, ensuring that no young person’s talent and potential are stifled due to financial constraints. By advocating for affordable tertiary education, SAYWHAT aims at creating a society where socioeconomic status does not hinder the pursuit of higher education, contributing to a more equitable and prosperous future for all.


SAYWHAT further acknowledges the challenges faced by students in securing suitable accommodation at tertiary institutions. The lack of adequate and affordable campus housing negatively impacts the educational experience and general well-being of students. SAYWHAT emphasizes the importance of providing safe and affordable accommodation to foster a conducive learning environment. We urge relevant authorities to address this critical issue promptly, ensuring that students have access to suitable living arrangements that enhance their overall educational experience.


SAYWHAT remains committed to engaging stakeholders, including government institutions, educational bodies, civil society, and the media, in meaningful dialogue and collaborative efforts to address the pressing concerns of young individuals in Zimbabwe. We firmly advocate for the implementation of policies and initiatives that promote the holistic development, well-being, and socioeconomic prosperity of young people. By partnering with various stakeholders, SAYWHAT aims to create an enabling environment that fosters the success, well-being, and meaningful participation of young individuals in society.


On this International Youth Day, SAYWHAT calls upon all stakeholders to prioritise the rights, aspirations, and potential of young individuals. We recognize the resilience, creativity, and power of young people to drive positive change. Together, we can create a society where every young person, regardless of their background, enjoys access to comprehensive public health services, quality education, and opportunities for socioeconomic empowerment. SAYWHAT remains unwavering in our commitment to advocate for the rights and well-being of young individuals, ensuring a prosperous future for Zimbabwe.


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