By Lindsay Chiswe and Fortunate Taruva
KATSWE Sisterhood a local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) is advocating for the unconditional retention of pregnant girls in educational institutions.
The organisation on Monday held a press conference at their offices in Strathaven, Harare, with regards to the Education Amendment Bill of 2019 which seeks to amend the Education Act chapter 25:04.
Addressing journalists, Debra Mwatse the programs manager said as an organisation, they feel that there are certain issues that need to be addressed within the education system as they moved towards empowering girls and women Zimbabwe.
“We felt that we needed to state our position as an organisation that work with young women and girls. We felt that just talking about statistics is not enough in this situation because this is a matter of real life experience and amongst us today, there are women who had to drop out of school because they had fallen pregnant,” she said.
According to the National Baseline Survey on Sexual Life Experiences of Adolescents (NBSLEA) 2011, 1 in 3 females aged between 18- 24years reported experiencing sexual violence in childhood.
This is ample evidence that unfortunately, a significant percentage of sexual intercourse among young women and girls in school included is a result of rape and abuse.
Primrose Kavhumbura (22) one of the ladies who works with Katswe Sisterhood, shared her experience on how she was forced to drop out of school as result of teenage pregnancy and her ordeal as a young inexperienced mother.
“I got pregnant at the age of 14 years doing Form 3 and I had to drop out of school to go and stay with my husband. It was an unplanned pregnancy, and the whole community including my parents expected me to go the person responsible. I was young and my in-laws did not accept me which resulted in me having difficulties staying at their place,” she said.
“As a young mother expecting, I missed seven years of school. I had little knowledge of contraceptives and at times I would bleed but could not afford to go to the hospital for check-ups or baby scan, as my husband was not working. During child birth I had complications and was later referred to a general hospital.”
Talent Jumo, director of Katswe Sisterhood said, “It is disheartening to note that the intentions of some policy makes are an insult on the constitutional rights of women, especially where they propose policy positions that will take us back to as far back to 1999.”
She said as an organisation they applaud the government position to retain pregnant girls to school.
Jumo also said that they were worried that the three months policy for girls in schools has provided opportunities for some families to force the girls into marriage as they were seen as idle and good for nothing.
She added that the law should seek to protect children from sexual exploitation by adults and schools should have clear policies on mechanisms to address sexual harassment to protect the girl child from being abused and victimised at the end of the day.
Talent Maposa from Zimbabwe Aids Network said, “If the government of Zimbabwe is really serious about an AIDS free generation by 2030, there should be a mechanism that allows comprehensive sexuality education as compulsory in all schools. Condom use and contraception should be part of the curriculum.”
Zimbabwe is one of the signatory of various national, regional and international declarations on the rights of women and girls, which include Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention against Discrimination in Education and the Beijing Platform for Action, hence the government has to take a firm position in protecting girl child from all forms of abuse.