The LEAD Project

The Leadership Exploration And Development Project is being implemented in Zimbabwe`s Higher Education Sector primarily targeting Zimbabwe`s ten biggest universities. SAYWHAT started implementing the LEAD project in 2018. This project is supported by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) which has been supporting SAYWHAT from its inception.


The LEAD Project envisages an inclusive and equitable higher education system in Zimbabwe that propels students and academics to contribute to promoting the sexual and reproductive health rights of students. This broader purpose is founded on the reality that some students are marginalised and discriminated against on the basis of being female students, living with HIV and disability status. The LEAD Project recognises the students as a resource to lead in championing sexual and reproductive health rights in the higher education sector as they have a bearing on how certain groups and sub populations of students’ access education in Zimbabwe.

Below is a summary of key interventions of the LEAD Project:

The LEAD Project shall work with and strengthen the capacities of marginalised and vulnerable students in the generation of evidence to better understand sexual and reproductive health in the higher education sector. SAYWHAT shall support the students to use the evidence in respective advocacy that will ensure the safety and inclusion of students from the female students (young women), students with disabilities, students living with HIV etc. The LEAD Project acknowledges the social and cultural barriers that affect especially young women`s enjoyment and participation in the higher education sector. It is SAYWHAT`s argument under the LEAD project that, if young women are supported and their capacities strengthened, they are better placed to articulate and push for the relevant reforms both at policy and community levels.

The LEAD Project shall strengthen the leadership capacities of students’ governance groups which are housed within universities. Students’ governance structures are key in championing issue-based advocacy on students’ welfare including the inclusion of traditionally marginalised young people in the higher education sector. These interventions are functional to trigger students’ activism in the creation of inclusive and equitable higher education systems in Zimbabwe. Students’ activism shall conduct advocacy in the areas such as government accountability on the delivery of quality higher education which is relevant to other needs of young people such as Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Gender Transformative Education and the adoption of inclusive curriculum that respects the rights of students. Furthermore, the LEAD project shall work with students unions at national level to influence on how they program on gender and SRH rights. Students unions are a key entry point and strategic partner to push and amplify the voices of marginalised constituencies in the higher education sector such as young women, young students living with HIV and young students with disabilities.

The LEAD Project shall scale up advocacy at national and regional levels to influence frameworks that govern the delivery of quality education e.g. the implementation of SDG 4 and related SDGs such as SDG 3, 5, 10 and 17. This intervention shall prioritise the active engagement of government arms and agencies with the responsibility to coordinate, monitor and support higher education institutions. Of particular interest to SAYWHAT is policy advocacy which will ensure that the higher education sector is safe for all. These can be achieved, for example, if the higher education sector has functional sexual harassment policies and programs that protect young women and students from having their rights violated. In essence, the LEAD project seeks to challenge and eliminate all forms of discrimination the higher education sector.

The current LEAD project running from 2022 until 2026 and it optimizes on the advocacy opportunity presented by the growing number of CSOs working in and focusing on the higher education sector of Zimbabwe. In this regard, the LEAD project shall strengthen the capacities of these CSOs to mainstream SRHR and GBV as part of their advocacy work to contribute to an inclusive and equitable higher education sector. Furthermore, these CSOs shall be supported and partnered as strategic sources of evidence on all forms of human rights violations that are related to SRH which can be used to lobby and advocate for change in the higher education sector. In this regard, partnerships and solidarity shall be a key flagship of the LEAD project cycle 2022-2026.