My Op-Ed is on the violation of sexual rights of marginalized groups such as HIV+ women, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gays, Transgender, Inter-sex (LBGTI), sex workers and women with mental health problems in Zimbabwe.

I work with minority groups in ensuring that the government of Zimbabwe recognises their sexual rights which include the right of all persons, free of coercision, discrimination and violence, to the highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services; seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality, sexuality education, respect for bodily integrity, choose their partner; decide to be sexually active or not; consensual sexual relations; consensual marriage; decide whether or not, and when, to have children; and pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.

This op-ed is important because the Ministry of health, civic society and the private sector gathered in August 2009 to assess progress in achieving goals set in the Maputo Plan of Action (MpoA) of achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health services in Africa by 2015. Zimbabwe is currently using the National Maternal and Neonatal Health Road Map (2007-2015) to achieve the goals set in the MPoA (2006).

The Zimbabwe National Maternal and Neonatal Health Road Map is narrow and fails to recognize sexual rights. The road map is not comprehensive and rights of minority groups such as LGBTI are not recognized because of President Mugabe’s famous speech on homosexuality – “…they are worse than pigs and dogs,” said President Mugabe. President Mugabe’s iron fist has instilled fear in people and this makes it difficult for minority groups to advocate for their sexual rights without experiencing harassment, violence, stigma and discrimination. The country does not have laws to protect minority groups and where the law gives rights to minority groups, the law id interpreted using the president’s stance on certain issues such as safe abortion, same sex marriage and decriminalising sex work.

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Hello Gertrude,

Your first thoughts on the op-ed look very thorough and organized. It's great that working with for the sexual rights of minority groups gives you an inside view on different perspectives and probably lots of opinions about the subject! I think one of the main challenges about an op-ed piece is keeping it tight and concise. How can you create a strong argument in approximately 700 words? The context that you described is especially important, the gathering in August and President Mugabe's views. Setting this scene will be important at the beginning, but is a focused way that leaves enough room for your thoughts. I look forward to reading your first draft!

with kindness, carly

Yes, it seems very clear that your Op-Ed subject matter is VERY TIMELY indeed, in regards to the August 2009 progress check on the MpoA goals and some current points of view.

Your background and the work you are doing give you the platform and expertise to give your readers important facts and a persuasive argument for why this a necessary change that needs to take place in the collective mind set of everyone as well as in real ACTION being taken on the part of those in leadership roles.

All the information you shared in your brainstorming effort seems like the powerful starting point to pull the reader into the OP-ED piece. I know that you can shed a great deal of light on this subject and pull us further in to the debate and discussion.

Being concise and straight forward will equal effective....I too look forward to your first draft,

In Appreciation of You,

Gretchen