UNESCO’s recognition boosts 2016 laureate’s work in Zimbabwe

Founder of the Female Student Network, laureate of the 2016 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education, Evernice Munando recounts the many initiatives that the Network has led since winning the Prize, and the impact these have made in Tertiary Education Institutions in Zimbabwe.

In 2016, the Female Students Network Trust (FSN) was awarded the inaugural UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education for its programme Empowerment of tertiary education female students through leadership development and mentorship programmes in Zimbabwe.

Receiving the Prize has opened many doors and has increased recognition of our Network. We have been invited to present and share our experience on diverse topics regionally and internationally, such as UNESCO’s Soft Power Today: Fostering Women’s Empowerment and Leadership event in 2017.

FSN has intensified its efforts to advance girls’ and women’s education through leadership development and capacity building trainings, sexual harassment prevention campaigns, policy advocacy and promoting sexual and reproductive health rights.

As a result, we see increased participation of women in tertiary education institutions’ (TEI) leadership positions in student representative councils. Currently, 45% of all female students in TEIs participate in leadership positions, compared to 35% in 2015. Harare Polytechnic made history, recording the first-ever female student president since the institution’s establishment in 1919. Female students undertook grassroots activism across the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe to formulate and effectively implement sexual harassment prevention policies. The number of TEIs with sexual harassment prevention policies increased from 4 in 2015 to 20 in 2017. The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education adopted FSN’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy Guidelines, enabling the broader implementation of good practices.

Edu-wellness programmes on SRHR education amongst young women in TEIs were held under the SAY Yes! #SmartGirls - Youth Empowerment on SRHR project. This is contributing to strengthened access among women and girls to services and commodities, including maternal health and menstrual facilities, contraception, hygiene/physiological and psychosocial support. We have also supported female student leaders to organize strategic advocacy activities around the Day of the African Child (16 June 2017) and the International Day of the Girl Child (11 October 2017).

Following UNESCO’s recognition of FSN’s work, 2017 was a fruitful year that enable the Network to enhance our work in advancing girls and women’s education in Zimbabwe. We look forward to further and enhanced efforts in 2018!