Home News 4900 Zimbabwean girls Impregnated During COVID Lockdown

4900 Zimbabwean girls Impregnated During COVID Lockdown

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The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has urged Government to follow up on the second chance education policy and ensure it is implemented in schools as a measure to address child marriages and empower impregnated girl children educationally.

The call comes at the back of an estimated 4 959 girls who fell pregnant during Covid-19 lockdown and risk losing educational opportunities. ZGC recently conducted a national multi-sectoral stakeholders’ inquiry on sexual exploitation and abuse of girls including in so called child marriages.

The Commission’s chairperson, Mrs Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe said it was important to interrogate the experiences of survivors to determine the forms of exploitation. She urged the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to scale up the second chance education policy to reach every needy child, and capacitate teachers and other personnel within the education sector on how to handle pregnant children and mothers in schools to reduce stigma and discrimination.

“The focus of the inquiry interrogated experiences of survivors to determine the drivers and forms in which the child marriage and sexual exploitation take.

It also sought to examine the effects of child marriage and sexual exploitation including on girls with disabilities and proffer recommendations and solutions at multi-sectoral level to address the challenges,” she said in reference to the ZGC National Inquiry on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of young girls in Zimbabwe.

She said the national inquiry and investigation established that there were various drivers of child marriages and sexual exploitation.

“The inquiry established that there are common and general causes/drivers of child marriages and child exploitation that were identified in all the country’s ten provinces.

These include cultural and religious norms which undervalue girls, particularly those with disabilities, virginity and other myths against girls with disabilities, early pregnancy, poverty and lack of economic opportunities and lack of school fees and sanitary wear among others,” she added.

Mrs Mukahanana-Sangarwe however, said they also established that there were specific causes/drivers peculiar to certain geographical and social settings within each of the country’s ten provinces. While, these geographical and social context specific causes/drivers include religious and cultural practices, negative perception of the role of girls and women in society, migration trends and gold panning — proximity to small-scale mining activities remain a challenge.

“The inquiry also revealed systemic barriers and challenges faced by survivors especially persons with disabilities in accessing justice and social protection mechanisms which include long distances to courts, lack of sign language interpreters, lack of safe shelters, discrimination by the community and service providers and being hidden away from the public by their families.”

She said there was need to establish robust psychosocial support systems within the sector to support survivors of child marriage and sexual exploitation.

“There is need to implement the Education Act provision on the establishment of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights focal persons in schools to help reduce child pregnancies, child marriages and other child rights violations.”

To the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Mrs Mukahanana-Sangarwe said there was need to accelerate alignment of laws to the Constitution particularly those on gender equality and children’s rights. She said Parliament should adopt and implement the Sadc Model Law on Child Marriages as the blueprint for managing child marriages, among other key things.

ZGC also made recommendation to various ministries such as Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development and Ministry of Health and Child Care and other non-state actors

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