From 20 July to 21 July, more than 40 University students worked together on two mobile applications that will support access to sexual reproductive health and rights information and services for tertiary education students in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
UNESCO organized two simultaneous workshops that gathered more than a hundred participants in Lusaka, Zambia and in Harare, Zimbabwe in the context of the Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future PLUS (O3 PLUS) project. These two days of intense work on the mobile applications allowed students to collaborate with sexual reproductive health and rights experts; higher and tertiary education representatives; IT teams; government, UNESCO and CSOs representatives.
As mobile phones are widely used by students in Zambia and Zimbabwe higher and tertiary education institutions campuses, the app will be a solution that offers a friendly and safe space where young people, especially young women, can freely access sexual reproductive health and rights information, and improve their knowledge of sexual and reproductive health issues. Students can also get support and services in real-time through services such as counselling chat, SOS messaging and calling in.
The students selected the names of the mobile applications during the first meeting organized earlier this year; it will be “Future +” in Zimbabwe and “Ownu” in Zambia. The students also selected topics that are important to them including Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Sexual and Reproductive Health, General Health, Mental Health, Safety, HIV/AIDS and Career and Financial Management. The guiding principle for this initiative is ‘designing an app with students and for students’, making them an integral part of design, development, beta testing, ongoing testing, feedback collection, and IT planning.
Fadzai is a student from Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe and she sees the app as an opportunity to improve mental health in campuses: “I am so excited about the “Future +” mobile app because it will focus on many important topics for my fellow students. Today, I am particularly excited about contributing to fight peer pressure. In my opinion, toxic peer pressure affects a lot of university students, and it can be link to mental health problem and depression, that can lead to suicide. This app is going to help students discussing and cooperating to stop all these harmful practices”.
Nora is Pursing a diploma in biomedical engineering Evelyn Hone College in Zambia and has been collecting the requests from students: “Students wants somebody who understand what they go through, they need a place where they talk about pregnancies, relationships, sex, contraception, hygiene, gender-based violence and any problem related to relationships. They just want somebody safe to talk to, somebody who is not going to talk to them badly. They need a safe space, imagine if “Ownu” App could offer that to them”
These applications are developed in collaboration with higher and tertiary education institutions in the context of the O3 PLUS project, led by UNESCO. That project seeks to ensure that young people in higher and tertiary education institutions in the East and Southern Africa region realize positive health, education, and gender equality outcomes through sustained reductions in new HIV infections, unintended pregnancy, and gender-based violence.
Working closely with relevant regional structures, national ministries, higher and tertiary education institutions, and key partners, UNESCO supports innovation in access to life skills-based sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for higher and tertiary education institutions students while advocating for policy and practice changes to make campuses safe and inclusive learning environments for students and staff.
By institutionalizing health and well-being programs for students while engaging leadership for long-term commitment and sustainability, this innovative project from UNESCO supports students to reach their full educational potential and help them to contribute more effectively to the development of their countries and region as graduates, professionals, and young leaders.