The Special Projects Unit is an organic unit in charge of different small projects designed to deal with periodic and/grant specific thematic issues and interventions on specific themes or cross cutting grant themes. The Unit also provides team leadership in institutional rights literacy initiatives. The Unit is also tasked with deploying competencies and providing leadership to the Communications department and the Monitoring and Evaluation desk of ZLHR. Presently, the Unit implements the following interventions and projects;
Coalition for Effective Community Health and HIV Response, Leadership and Accountability (CECHLA)
Under this project, the Special Projects Unit works in a consortium of Zimbabwean civil society organisations partnering with Family Aids Caring Trust (FACT). Consortium members include the Zimbabwe AIDS Network (ZAN), the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Pangea Zimbabwe AIDS Trust and the Southern Africa HIV/AIDS Trust (SAT). The work of the Special Projects Unit in this consortium is to provide leadership in advocacy and work is aimed at increasing access to quality health services, policy reform and monitoring of national strategic plan on HIV (for increasing the accountability and transparency of national commitments and planned results towards HIV and related health issues). Under this project, the Unit hosts media forums and training for journalists (for accurate reporting and also reducing stigma and discrimination in communities), policy dialogues on Public Health Act and law and policy analysis (for increasing the accountability and transparency of national commitments and planned results towards HIV and related health issues).
HIV Related Rights and Reproductive Health Rights Initiative
The initiative seeks to address problems of access to treatment and diagnostic services that continue to hound people living with HIV and also access to reproductive health services; to promote rights, access and integration of HIV and SRHR in policies and practices; to promote rights based practices, policies and laws that facilitate rights of people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS and sex workers through advocacy and research and to facilitate scaling up of legal services for PLHIV and sex workers through litigation and mobile legal clinics.
Some of the expected results include;
- National policies that facilitate integration of HIV and SRHR.
- National health system is strengthened to allow for quality, accountability and non-discrimination in the provision of HIV and SRHR services
- Strengthened monitoring and partnerships (national and international) on SRHR and HIV integration
Under this initiative is also a dual outcome of systems strengthening and HIV-SRH integration. Implementation mechanisms for the HIV-SRH integration involve the Annual Symposium on HIV and Law (a critical policy reform dialogue space), working with policy makers (strengthening their monitoring role), the advocacy committees in the communities (an important community strengthening and service monitoring tool) and the national advocacy roundtable (a civic action and national convergence space for advocates). The rationale of the above activities in HIV-SRH integration is to ensure that users are interconnected to the health care system and drive change towards integration that places people at the centre of care.
Advocacy agenda of the initiative focuses on issues of cost and availability of health services for PLHIV. Health funding is a key issue which has led the initiative to run annual “Fund health” Campaigns to push for increased funding for the health ministry by central government.
The initiative has taken up constitutional litigation in criminalisation of HIV and also on access to drugs by incarcerated individuals. A documentary on the effects of criminalisation of HIV on women titled “Alone But Together” was also produced by the initiative. The documentary provided a good example of the intersection of HIV and reproductive health in the context of punitive laws and policies. Local level advocacy on health rights has been a major highlight success of the initiative as it set up ten Provincial Advocacy Committees to take up advocacy issues on access to treatment at a local level. An initial publication was done on the successes of the local level advocacy in health rights.
Women Empowerment Initiative
The women empowerment initiative is a legal and rights response to the multifaceted violations, exclusions and inequalities that affect women’s meaningful enjoyment of human rights and economic opportunities. Women’s access to opportunities, resources and services continues to drive gender based inequality and violence. Awareness of rights and laws for women provides the necessary capital that capacitates them towards claiming and defending rights in communities and in national processes. The initiative works towards an enabling environment for the realisation of women’s rights and seeks to mobilise legislators and traditional leadership in reversing the negative social, cultural and traditional norms that perpetuate gender based violence (GBV). Masculinity mobile legal clinics targeting men only seeks to identify and capacitate champions who advocate for the end of gender based violence in communities. Facilitating uptake of quality services for GBV survivors is a key deliverable for this initiative. Policy reform towards removing harmful policies and practices that harm women’s rights and limit their opportunities guides the inter-action with policy makers and central government.
Human Rights and Key Populations Initiative
The key populations initiative has two target groups viz; sex workers and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) groups. Opportunities exist to expand on this work in future to address rights of an expanded cohort.
LGBTI Rights Sub-Initiative: The initiative in partnership with Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) focuses on law and human rights responses to LGBTI rights violations and access to reproductive health rights. The initiative also looks at LGBTI as human rights defenders. ZLHR helps in the protection and promotion of LGBTI rights and seeks to increase their understanding of law and human rights including SRHR. The work also involves advocacy towards eradication of stigma in the general communities. The initiative also seeks improved awareness and understanding on legislation and the right to equal opportunities by both the government and the key populations communities.
Sex Workers Initiative: ZLHR deploys its legal expertise to promote and protect rights of women involved in sex work. Litigation and rights literacy are key strategies for this initiative. This initiative was critical in facilitating successful constitutional litigation that stopped the arbitrary arrests of women in Zimbabwe. The initiative also produced the documentary, “ From Behind The Shadows” (an audio visual on rights violations suffered by sex workers in Zimbabwe), which was acknowledged and used by the Global Commission on HIV during the Africa Dialogue Session that led to the Global Commission World Report. Besides legal representation, the initiative has also been instrumental in producing papers on the role of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary in protecting rights of women involved in sex work. Some of the results sought include:
- Policies are responsive to the needs of sex workers
- Decreased human rights violations in the health care system and by law enforcement agencies when dealing with sex workers.
- Increased use of legal services by sex workers to assert and defend their rights and fundamental freedoms.
Rights Literacy Interventions
The sole focus of this initiative is empowering communities through sharing of information, public dialogue, targeted debates and dissemination of simplified material. It is anchored by the communications desk. The objective is to increase knowledge of the Constitution, basic and fundamental rights of citizens, duties of the arms of government and various state institutions, as well as general human rights and international human rights instruments. In the long term, provision of such information will empower women, men, youths and marginalised groups to effectively assert their rights, call for transparency and hold those in public office accountable. Communities will also be able to engage in governance issues from an informed perspective. This intervention also includes the Mobile Legal Clinic (MLCs) concept, which is implemented across other units. The MLCs are housed under the Special Projects. Under rights literacy interventions, the Communications Desk outputs include;
- “Frankly Speaking” series on various identified thematic issues related to the Constitution and access to justice
- Pocket-book series on thematic issues for various sectors
- Simplified, translated Fact Sheets (also via the Legal Monitor)
- Commemorations of important days in the human rights and national calendar
- Specialised publications
- Alerts on cases and human rights developments
- Press conferences on key human rights developments