Zazi helps women to help each other

Zazi MainSwedish-born writer, poet and activist King Nova is one of the many public figures who have endorsed the Zazi communication campaign calling on women to support each other and take pride in themselves. (Images: Zazi)

To build a sense of pride and self-assurance in the young women of South Africa, Zazi has taken it upon itself to educate and equip young women, and the men who support their cause, with the knowledge and skills to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

As an organisation, Zazi – which means “know yourself” across a range of Nguni languages – aims to create a national movement with the intention of arming women with a practical knowledge of their rights, sexual health practices as well as general life skills to ensure their wellbeing.

Bronwyn Pearce, the deputy country director at the USAID/JHU HIV communication programme and one of the many forces behind the creation of the Zazi movement, explains that the Zazi campaign “has been developed by women for women and celebrates the strength of South African women… We hope the campaign creates a movement that encourages women to defy the silence that allows the pain in their lives to thrive, to define their own values and their own path in life.”

Sara Chitambo, the programme manager of Zazi, elaborates further, saying “the campaigns offer women a platform to be self-assured and independent, educated and skilful, through providing them [with] information that helps them make the best decisions about their health and future”.

Much of the efforts of the campaign look to encourage women to undergo a journey of self-discovery and establish “what it means to be really true to themselves so that they can overcome adversity”.

Since its creation – with the guidance of the South African National Aids Council Women’s Sector – in early 2013, Zazi, an NGO, has set in motion a number of different campaigns, initiatives and projects looking to catalyse this process of self-discovery and create a system in which young women can support each other and offer guidance to their peers in negotiating some of life’s many obstacles.

Its most recent undertaking is its #BagitUseit campaign, which is a prime example of the kind of work the organisation has been involved in over the years.

#BAGITUSEIT

#Bagituseit is aimed at educating and encouraging women always to carry condoms with them and ensure they are as well protected as possible. “We have radio shows, TV interviews and live chats on Twitter and Facebook that are looking at women’s access to condoms and their right to carry and insist on them being used,” says Chitambo.

The campaign, which went live at the beginning of Women’s Month, is still in action and has garnered the support of several public figures, such as Miss South Africa 2015 runner up Refilwe Mthimunye.

She has been very vocal in her support and encourages all women who are sexually active to carry condoms when the prospect of intercourse is at all a possibility.

Watch: Refilwe Mthimunye says use a Condom! Bag it, use it!

Other public figures who have thrown their weight behind the Zazi movement include singer and songwriter Zonke who wrote and featured on the organisation’s Zazi Song alongside Swedish-born writer, poet and activist King Nova.

The duo was backed by the University of Pretoria Youth Choir.

Watch: The Zazi Song music video

The campaign is set to lead into the organisation’s push to get as many members of the public involved in 16 Days of Activism against Violence from 25 November to 10 December. “In November we have a competition for poetry and visual art where the winners will get their work turned into billboards and radio adverts for 16 Days of Activism against Violence” Chitambo explains.

GET INVOLVED

The organisation has made available its Zazi facilitators guide, a toolkit created to help those looking to start their own Zazi clubs, on its website. It has also called on community leaders to create these clubs in their communities and offer guidance to the women in their areas.

The facilitators guide, based on research conducted by Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa and the Centre for Aids Development, Research and Evaluation, is available for download on the Zazi website for free. It helps community leaders facilitate discussions about sexual and reproductive health.

Chitambo says that Zazi is always open to people who want to get involved and she urges people who are interested in this campaign or the work of the organisation in general to join in the conversation on Twitter via @teamzazi #bagituseit or on its Facebook page.

You can also contact the Zazi team via email on info@zazi.org.za or visit its website to get more information on how you can form your own Zazi clubs or how to volunteer in your community.