Anna Miti is a broadcaster by profession and HIV/AIDS Activist by
passion (and calling!). I am a member of the AVAC Fellows Alumni. AVAC is an
organization that advocates for HIV prevention and have a fellows program where
I was a fellow from 2015 to March 2016. I sit on the boards of the Zimbabwe
HIV/AIDS Activists Union Community trust and the Health Journalists Association
of Zimbabwe. I am a blogger, a mentor for health journalists and radio
presenter for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. I am a feminist who truly
believes in the fact that the future of Africa lies in its young women. Through
my fellowship project and my work with the Zimbabwe HIV/AIDS Community trust,
my blog and my radio programs, I advocate for the sexual and reproductive
health rights of young women. I find it incredibly sad and shocking that young
women aged 15 to 24 in Sub Saharan Africa are up to five times more likely to acquire
HIV than their male counterparts of the same age. Young women are vulnerable to
HIV due to various socio-economic factors such as gender inequality, sexual and
gender based violence that leave then unable to negotiate for safer sex and
that predispose them to getting the virus. I advocate for  more support to be given to survivors of
gender and sexual violence. I also advocate for the availing of biomedical HIV
prevention tool such as Pre Exposure Prophylaxis to young women so that they
can at least protect themselves from HIV
Audacity, Awareness, Assertiveness, In
my experience I think women, especially young women should have the AWARENESS
that gives them the AUDACITY to be ASSERTIVE. Why? Because I have come across young
women in Africa and even in my own home country Zimbabwe, who have no idea of
the opportunities that the world presents to them. They have very low self
esteem because they live in poverty and have been told that their best bet is
to find a man to marry them as soon as they get him. I have met young women who
think if a girl gets raped she should marry her rapist in order to erase the
shame. When women are “woke” or aware of the opportunities they have, only then
can they change and influence their future. It has been proven that the higher
the level of education a woman attains the better her quality of life and by
extension her children, her community and the next generation. We have the
opportunity to reach out to the young generation in order to influence their
In my early childhood it was my mother. But she passed on when I
was young and so my father single handedly took over the job. I describe my
father as a feminist who from an early age encouraged me to take up any
challenge that came my way. He took every opportunity to remind me that girls
can do anything that the boys can do so I should not be afraid. When I announced
(at the age of 7) that I wanted to be a journalist and read news, he would sit
me down and make me read the paper as if I was reading news on radio. When the
dream came true years later he would sit by the radio and listen to every
bulletin I read, and then call me to talk about the news! When I read my first
television bulletin he told everyone he knew to tune in and watch me. His pride
in me inspires to always want to achieve more. Even now he takes pride in my
work and achievements and has been my number one supporter!
Martha Tholanah for her work with Pan African Positive Women`s Coalition
and her all round HIV/AIDS advocacy. She is a recipient of many awards
including most recently the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights awards at the World
Aids conference. She is openly living with HIV and advocates for the rights of
African women. I love her!
Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi- She is a well respected scientist working as
a researcher with an organization called UZ-UCSF. Along with other scientists
and organizations she has been working on coming up with an HIV prevention tool
that women can use, that is within their control and not subject to negotiation
with a man if the woman so wishes. She has been working on vaginal microbicides
since the inception of the studies up to the latest studies involving the use
of a vaginal ring, infused with a drug called Dapivirine to prevent HIV in
women. She is proof that girls can do science and that we can talk about HIV
with girls being part of the solution, not just the victims
Dazon Dixon Diallo- CEO and founder of Sister Love organization.
She is a visionary and powerful woman in the advocating for the sexual and
reproductive health and justice for women of color all over the world. She was
instrumental in the holding the first ever Women Now! Conference in Durban
South Africa this year ahead of the World Aids Conference
In the next five years I want to have integrated
my advocacy work into something tangible. I want to see the rise of the young
women I have been mentoring. At the moment my advocacy lies mainly in linking
young women to services and directing them to where they can get help. In the
next five years I want to have formed an organization which offers all round
support to young women, from offering Post Exposure Prophylaxis and counseling
for survivors of sexual violence to offering training for livelihood
opportunities. I want to create centres that would be safe spaces for young
women of all backgrounds to receive sexual and reproductive health and rights
services. I also want to see stakeholders having succeeded in widening sexual
and reproductive health and rights options, including options for the HIV
prevention among young women. I belong to a network of global HIV/AIDS
activists besides other communities such as the AVAC Fellows Alumni, where we
encourage each other and hold ourselves accountable to these and other goals.
I think our biggest challenge is
disempowered women. Our women are disempowered though generations of patriarchy
which tells them a woman cannot be anything other than a tiller of the land or
wife and mother. We also face the challenge of poverty which reduces the
quality of life for women. For example poverty means this woman has no access
to safe water sources and so she spends time fetching water, fetching firewood
for cooking and doing subsistence agriculture using manual labor. Poverty means
she is more vulnerable to gender and sexual violence. Poverty means her options
are minimal forcing her to go into sex work, stay in abusive relationships and
accept very low wages for very hard work. My contribution has been to reach out
to the young women to raise their awareness so they begin to see opportunities
presented to them rather than focus on their problems and challenges. I link
them to places and organizations where they can access funds for education and
other support services like counseling. I work towards building their self
esteem from within so that their empowerment comes from within. I work to let
them know that their bodies belong to them and only they can change their
future. I have reached out to even young women starting out in journalism to offer
support as they begin their careers
I read mostly, but I also write. I
write poetry and blogs sometimes under pseudonyms!
MY   –  
Whilst the image of the African woman
is usually a barefooted woman in a tattered dress, carrying a baby on her back
and a huge firewood bundle on her head is the reality of our life, African women
are more than that.  Thanks to
initiatives such as PAW and others, nowadays if you Google images of African
women you find photos of beautiful women in different headdresses and African
prints. Before that you would see j these horrible images of women in conflict
zones, holding malnourished babies.Just for that reason African women should be
celebrated. We have even managed to change the image of what an African woman
looks like. We have even managed to export our awesomeness through talented
women who are now idolized celebrities like Lupita Nyongo, Danai Gurira,
Tinashe, Iman and many others. Just look at how the African print has taken
over the world`s fashion industry! This should inspire the next generation to do
even more now that they have tools we could never have dreamt of in our lives.
Young women can change their lives through initiatives such as DREAMS whose
goal also includes keeping girls in school and linking them to training
opportunities. With these opportunities and achievements of our women, African
women should be empowered to achieve even more than what the current generation
has achieved.
I want to work in the sexual and
reproductive health rights advocacy for young women. I believe we lose the potential
that young women have when they are denied access to HIV prevention, to
contraceptives and through early marriages and sexual and gender based violence.
These have effects such as the high rates of HIV infection in young women as
well as higher maternal and infant rates.
The only limit is yourself; you have
the power to rise above your circumstance. You are beautiful; it is time to
claim your space. Young women claim your body, it is yours and no one should
beat you, force himself on you or touch you without your permission.