The SAfAIDS Young People’s Transformational SRHR and Gender Leadership Academy (YPLA), has nurtured me to be more conversant, passionate and cognisant of issues around sexual reproductive health and rights, gender equality and sexual diversity. Although I had already started on my leadership journey on SRHR advocacy work, I lacked the enthusiasm. I did not believe in myself. I was afraid of failing. I could not explore any possibility of a bright future because I was still engulfed in my past. I had anxieties that I did not want to confront and that really had a toll on my confidence.
When I applied to join the Academy, I really did not know what to expect out of the programme. Module 1 was more about me; a journey of self-discovery and self-evaluation. I managed to unravel my fears and weaknesses and to celebrate my strengths. I managed to reclaim the person I had long lost in the past, one who always wanted to shine. I became conscious of the person I needed to be and enlightened
that my past does not determine my future, instead it helps shape it. The module heightened my confidence. Spending time with other young people and sharing life experiences made me self believe. I also see change on my character and personality. I am becoming more considerate of the people around me, something I would not do before.
After module 1, I intensified my involvement in activities that have something to do with young people. I joined a group called Be Yourself, which advocates for the distribution of sanitary wear to the less privileged girls and young women. The project recognises how there is limited realisation of SRHR by us young women; how we are discriminated against and the stigma we face during our monthly cycle and we end up being embarrassed of our womanhood. To debunk this, we launched a campaign under the theme #myperiodmypride to create awareness and sensitisation on reproductive health and rights.
Esinathy Sibanda recieving her YPLA certificate from SAfAIDS' Executive Director Mrs Lois Chingandu
After the success of the campaign, we then agreed on collecting sanitary wear from well-wishers for distribution to less advantaged young women in and around Bubi District. In addition, I was elected to the position of Information and Communications Faculty Governor in the Students Representative Council at the National University of Science and Technology where I am a student. The post provides me with an opportunity to advocate for SRHR related issues at varsity.
After taking such responsibilities, I realised that leadership needed grooming, guidance and skills to thrivee. I expected all of that in Module 2 training. I learnt that there is strength in creating a strong network. Some of the aspects I took from the programme include becoming a critical thinker, as well as people management skills. I began thinking beyond individual level as I learnt to open up for my family and community, as leadership is essential in all spheres of life. I also learnt that I did not need validation to make it in life, but I should be a goal getter. Moreover, I learnt to employ the skills I am acquiring from my Media studies and use them in my advocacy work and it is really working. My dream is to own a media entity that will be advocating for full realisation of young people’s SRH rights and providing a platform where young people’s stories will be shared for celebration and to empower others and to provide a voice to the voiceless.
Above all, I am grateful for the opportunity that SAfAIDS presented in my life and the great transformation that I am experiencing. The opportunity has really impacted my life positively and I take with me that greatness is in the little things that I will do perfectly. The training inspired and dared me to live a purposeful life. It does not matter how many times one is knocked down. All that matters is getting up one more time, and I believe that YPLA just made that possible for me. I love and respect the person I am becoming!