Statement: IThemba For Girls Trust joins the world in commemorating The International Day of the Girl-Child with the theme “Our time is now-our rights, our future”. The day was established to highlight injustices and challenges that girls continue to face throughout the world. The vulnerability of girls continues to increase as their safe space is shrinking with a rise in sexual abuse, in schools, homes, churches and anywhere in the communities.
In Zimbabwe, the vulnerability of girls has been increasing ever since the Covid-19 lockdown. Many parts of Zimbabwe especially in the rural communities have experienced increasing cases of Child Marriages, Teenage Pregnancies and girls dropping out of school. Those who continue going to school experience “Period Poverty”. Some of the factors that promote such is the increasing poverty at household level due to continued economic problems in the country. Informal mining activities in the rural communities have contributed immensely to teenage pregnancies and some religious sectors promote child marriages. Household poverty reduces access to clean sanitary pads and as a survival strategy they either use unhygienic methods to control the flow (which might have long terms effects on their health) or they stay at home during menstruation days (which negatively affects their academic attainment). Teenage pregnancies pose a health risk to the young bodies that are not mature enough to deliver safely. With our poor health delivery systems and some religious sectors that do not
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allow members to seek for medical attention, reports of girls dying at childbirth have been increasing which is worrisome as very little response is coming from the government.
As our theme this year says “Our time is now-our rights, our future” it is clear the future of girls lies in the completion of their education. Therefore, they should receive enough support for them to complete their education. Which means Girls Rights have to be respected through Ending Child Marriages, implementing The New Education Act which allows pregnant girls to continue attending school and girls accessing sanitary pads, Menstrual Health Management (MHM) and Hygiene Education that will help dignify their menstruation.
We would like to appeal to the government to put in place measures that are going to increase the security and protection of girls. Religious Sectors that promote child marriages should be banned and perpetrators brought to book. Communities should proactively create safe environments for girls. The government introduced a policy for Free Sanitary Pads in schools and even budgets for such, but the disbursement policy is not clear. Up to now we do not know which schools qualify for such help, when and how it’s done. But what we know is that girls remain faced with “Period Poverty” and in dire need of assistance.
It is only through promoting the education for girls that we can end Child Marriages and promote community development that is likely to reduce generational poverty.