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Zimbabwe: campaigning begins at home

I visited Zimbabwe in March this year, after a gap of about three years. Last time, I was there to work on a cholera response. This time, I was going to train staff on popular mobilisation for our EVERY ONE campaign to save children’s lives.

It was good to see my friends at the office again. I had a great meeting with the team working on the campaign, brainstorming about how we could do more for our child survival campaign. I came away with a huge amount of respect for how much energy and commitment the team showed.

We had a discussion over lunch about a local ‘rag’ that usually publishes shocking news and gossip and has a very large readership. One of our stories on malnutrition made it to that paper.

The article showed a starkly malnourished child. We thought it was about time that ordinary Zimbabweans knew how bad the problem is (UNICEF says that 32% of under fives in the country are stunted) and that it’s time to put an end to it.

A conversation starter

On the Friday before I left, I suddenly spotted every staff member coming through the gates to work in an EVERY ONE campaign T-shirt.

I was delighted to learn that this happened every Friday! What a wonderful way to make everyone in the office aware of the cause – including those whose day-to-day work is less connected to the campaign, such as finance or IT.

The T-shirts were also a great way to get the message out to people in Harare. I could already see questions on the faces of passers-by. “Is this a uniform?” “What does EVERYONE mean?” They were a great conversation starter.

Ruth Vera, our campaign manager, says, “Staff involvement began with an internal launch to staff, educating them about the campaign. Now, they can respond to questions as needed.” Spot on!

Next, the team wants to produce bumper stickers for staff to give out to friends and family.

Sipiwe’s story

Sipiwe: everyone's grandmother

I met Sipiwe. With over 20 years experience, she drives our staff safely to meetings, field visits and other official locations.

She was wearing the T-shirt too. I talked to her about the campaign. She knew all about feeding her kids at home.

She’d started driving trucks when she was quite young – quite unusual for a Zimbabwean woman – so she could keep her kids clothed and fed. Today, Sipiwe is a grandmother.

“I love kids,” she says. “I take in the neighbour’s kids when I get home, organise meals for them, and keep them occupied till their parents get home. I am everyone’s grandmother!”

This made me think – campaigning truly does begin at home! Each of us has personal stories that we can add to the campaign to help convince the people around us to stop tolerating needless child deaths and stunted growth.

So what’s your story?

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