Empowering youth lives through a free helpline

By Rachel Mwenyeheli
Most adolescents and young adults in Zimbabwe have found it difficult to access services such as advice,
counseling and referrals without the fear of facing stigma within their communities, moreover accessing
these services for free. But with mobile health technology adolescents and young adults now have a
chance to get free information, advice, counseling and referrals with the click of a button and are
assured of confidentiality.
Most adolescents and young adults in Zimbabwe find it difficult to open up about issues related to
gender based violence, health and sexuality with the fear of being judged by the community. They also
don’t know who to turn to for information, advice or counseling when it comes to issues related to Post
–Gender Based Violence (GBV), Pre and Post Exposure Prophylaxis, STI Screening / treatment,
Emergency contraception, family planning, , victim friendly services, support groups, emergency shelter,
or about their sexuality. Furthermore service delivery, especially within the non urban communities
remains fragmented, geographically spaced and people have to wait for once off activities from different
partners to access health services and information, which may come at a cost.
However a solution to the above mentioned problems has been addressed by Youth Advocates
Zimbabwe which started operations in 2004 and has a vision to empower adolescents and young adults
to live health enterprising lifestyles. It has various programs that are running and they are mainly
influenced by challenges faced by adolescents and young adults. One of those programs which is the
heartbeat of YAZ is the Youth Helpline. YAZ is making use of mobile health technology to influence
change within the communities in Zimbabwe. The Youth Helpline makes use of mobile technology to
provide free of charge, individualized and interactive counselling and poll services to adolescents, young
people and the general populace who voluntarily sign up by texting ‘DREAMS’ to a short code 33500, use
a simple “call me back” to 0777469107or call 393 for free. These platforms guarantee confidentiality for
those who access them.
Through this platform adolescents and young people can now access information, counselling, advice
and referrals for free. The platform also provides a safe and interactive plat from for young people to feel
free and talk about any issues without the fear of being judged. It also gives them quick access to
services and receive individualized counselling. Like Tariro Rachel Masaraure, who is the from the
Monitoring and Evaluation Department at Youth Advocates Zimbabwe said “way back we used to have
ana tete ana gogo and sekuru giving advice to these young people but if you check even in your home
every young person has got a phone, so we are making use or taking advantage of mobile health
technology to change the lives of young people.” This platform has become the modern way to reach out
to adolescents and young adults and for them to access these services for free.