Editor’s note: The following first-person entry is part of a recurring series detailing the experiences of Grassroot Soccer (GRS) Youth Reproductive Health Assistants (YRHAs). A different YRHA will be highlighted in each post.

The YRHA model is a flexible and creative solution to address heightened barriers adolescents in Zimbabwe face when accessing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services and information due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through on-the-job mentorship, GRS is strengthening institutional capacity to create safe spaces to provide youth friendly services and openly discuss social norms and taboos around gender, sexuality, and SRHR.

Norleen Takaendesa, Grassroot Soccer (GRS) Zimbabwe Youth Reproductive Health Assistant

… And it happens that one day you wake up and you are in a place where everything feels right, where your thoughts are positive and you are doing something you love in this world. This is me today as an enabler – creating a supportive environment for young people to reach their full potential and being a game changer in my community.

Bringing positive change in people’s lives is one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I had always wanted to bring change in my community as I felt there was great SRH need for youth in my community, as many of my peers were having early and unintended pregnancies and failing to complete their education due to that. These early and unintended pregnancies often led to early child marriages as my community views it, as a taboo to raise a child as a single young woman who is not sure who the father is. 

“Was it because they wanted to become pregnant?” No! It was because they did not have that kind of opportunity to have people who could offer them the right information and the appropriate services that could help them make informed decisions that could enable them to reach their goals [rather] than to become teenage mothers.

I have been able to provide accurate information to young people and escort them to access long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC)* at a local facility. These young women have been able to open up to me telling me that although they were sexually active, they wanted to avoid getting pregnant, as this would deter them from achieving their goals. I took them to the nearest health facility where information on LARCs was provided and they decided on the contraceptive they wanted. Many of them have expressed their appreciation on [how] I have made the process to access sexual reproductive health services easy.  Some have highlighted that they find it easy to discuss sexual health issues with me as I am not judgmental and I look as young as they do. 

I am very proud of the work I am doing. Being a Youth Reproductive Health Assistant has influenced my life positively, as many youths in my community are coming to me to access services and we discuss various issues that are affecting youth in our community.

I just want to say thank you to Grassroot Soccer for the opportunity given to be a game changer in my community.

*Editor’s note: Long-acting reversible contraceptives include the intrauterine device (IUD) and the birth control implant