UNESCO and partners launch US$15.6 million Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3 Plus) project
The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa in partnership with the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe and the Embassy of Switzerland launched the “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future (O3) Plus” project on 28 October 2021 at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. The project that is financed by UNESCO and Switzerland is worthy US$15.6 million.
The O3 Plus project seeks to ensure that young people in higher and tertiary education institutions in Zambia and Zimbabwe realize positive health, education and gender equality outcomes through sustained reductions in new HIV infections, unintended pregnancy and gender-based violence. It will thus enable them to reach their full educational potential and contribute more effectively to the development of their countries and region as graduates, professionals and young leaders.
Officially launcing the project, Zimbabwe’s Acting Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation and Technology Development, Prof. Paul Mavima commended UNESCO and its partners for coming up with a programme that addresses the key challenges faced young people.
He said too many young people in the region were growing into adolescence and adulthood with very limited knowledge about their reproductive health and sexuality having missed it at lower school or emerging life-cycle needs and in the context of poor access to sexual and reproductive health services; hence th need for a programme such as the O3 Plus.
Minister Mavima debunked the general assumption that once one reaches higher and tertiary education level, he/she would have received have adequate information about sexual and reproduction health and rights. He said most higher and tertiary education students were actually vulnerable to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) related concerns and risks as they navigate new responsibilities, relationships, and experiences on their own and in unfamiliar settings.
Speaking at the same occasion, Zambia’s Minister of Education Douglas Syakalima said young people were at the centre of the O3 Plus project and should be assisted to realise their full potential. He said students were at risk of negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes, such as unintended pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and the O3 Plus project was poised to change that narrative.
UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Hubert Gijzen described the O3 Plus as a unique project that will deliver massive results for young people.
Swiss Regional Director of Cooperation, Manuel Thurnhofer said Switzerland was proud to partners with UNESCO and other stakeholders to support the O3 Plus project. He said Switzerland was in full support of the programme as it enhances sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes for young people.
Working closely with relevant regional structures, national ministries, higher and tertiary education institutions (HTEIs), and key partners, UNESCO will support innovation in access to life skills based sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for HTEI students while advocating for policy and practice changes to make campuses safe and inclusive learning environments for students and staff. In doing so, the project will institutionalize health and well-being programs for students while engaging leadership for long-term commitment and sustainability.
The O3 Plus project seeks to reach out to a total of 135, 318 students with CSE services in 24 HTEIs in Zambia and Zimbabwe.