14-year-old Shasha (Not her Real Name) is an adolescent girl from Mutare, a U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported district. She was able to escape from sexual violence through the No Means No violence prevention skills.

“When I was approached by a perpetrator, I was able to use my body to prevent myself from being sexually abused. I used my mouth to shout for help and my hands to pull his genitals which helped me to escape,” narrated Shasha.

“The violent prevention sessions have transformed my life I am now more comfortable and confident even as I walk in the community. I have also learnt how to become someone’s confidante. If my peer has a problem of if she has been sexually abused instead of going around spreading the word, I report to the right people who can be of assistance on that case,” she added.

No Means No does not only teach violence prevention to young girls, but it also teaches them referral pathways.

“I am also passing on the information I gained from these sessions to my peers. If someone faces abuse, I always encourage them to report either to their parents, schoolteachers or the police instead of keeping quiet and letting the perpetrator walk freely.

“As a girl, if you do not like something you have to say it assertively and that person has no right to continue doing things that you would have said no to,” said Shasha.

Shasha’s mother testifies that after her daughter’s encounter with sexual violence, they were able to successfully report the case to the police and her daughter was able to get medical attention and examinations on time. She was also given PrEP pills.

“Both I and my daughter received counselling and we were able to heal from the event. I am grateful for these empowering sessions. My young girl’s life has been transformed,” she said.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the related series of lockdowns, Manicaland province reported an increase in SGBV-related cases, with 49 percent of all criminal cases reported to police from the beginning of the COVID-19-induced national lockdowns being domestic violence related. Of these cases,83 percent were said to be happening in the home.

Since 2021 to date, the IMPower initiative has reached 8,000 adolescent girls and young women in Makoni, Mutare and Chipinge districts of Manicaland province.