We are delighted to announce the winner of our social media campaign: Bianca Dayrit received the highest number of votes from the public for her substantial contributions to advocating against child marriage together with the Simuka Africa Youth Association in Zimbabwe.
Founded in 2006, the Simuka Africa Youth Association works to promote the realization of young people’s rights and alleviate poverty in the communities of Norton, a town located 40 km west of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. One of the organization’s priorities is to intervene on the issue of child marriage, which is most prevalent in poor, rural communities. According to UNICEF, 32% of the brides in Zimbabwe enter marriage before their 18th birthday. This has negative effects on their education and the well-being of their children. Exposure to HIV and AIDS, gender-based violence and emotional harm and exploitation are additional risks. In its efforts to support the local community, the Simuka Africa Youth Association launched a campaign to fundraise and assist vulnerable girls and households with food, education and mentorship. It set up a team of UN Online Volunteers to develop and run the campaign.
Bianca Dayrit was identified to lead and mentor a team of 20 volunteers. She engaged in expanding the organization’s social media outreach and advocacy activities. Together with the organization’s online volunteer coordinator Ezekiel Zekiya Mudimu, Bianca set up work plans and weekly review meetings to ensure the team was equipped with the required skills, knowledge and attitude.
Investing between two and six hours per week on average, Bianca wrote blog entries and researched information for the campaign’s Facebook page. She provided assistance in documentation, reviewed official reports and presentations, and contributed to the development of marketing strategies and new campaigns. “Bianca introduced a culture of hard work, innovation and professionalism to the team and the organization. Following Bianca’s advice, there was a sharp increase of followers and likes on our social media platforms, due to the improved relevance and quality of information posted – resulting in increased donations. There is definitely a change in appreciation on the role of volunteerism to development within our organization,” Ezekiel says.
Thanks to the campaign, the Simuka Africa Youth Association was able to assist more than 700 households with monthly supplies of food and other basic commodities and help neighbourhoods establish community gardens. In addition, girls and young women, as well as survivors of child marriage, received educational support as well as sexual and reproductive health education and services, reducing their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse.
The organization has also gained visibility with the UN, government and other partners working towards gender equality, and presented its collaboration at the International Volunteer Day celebration in Harare. According to Ezekiel, “we could not have attained this recognition and credibility without the support from UN Online Volunteers, and Bianca in particular, who exhibited exceptional commitment to our cause.”