IThemba for Girls Trust, Zimbabwe with some partners from South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania held a Webinar Discussion on the 3 July 2020 on the African Perspective on the education of girls from vulnerable communities after COVID-19 Lockdown.
Aim: Give an African Perspective discussion on Education of Girl after COVID-19 Lockdown
General Problems facing Girls and their Education
Girls walked long distances to school and that exposed them to abuse along the way. Whilst the education of girls has increased in general within rural areas, it is still lagging, and poverty is the barrier to many girls accessing education. Additionally, cultural beliefs regarding gender roles, where they believe “woman belong in the kitchen” or should be married early, is a big challenge as certain parents are not willing to send their daughters to school. Poor households would rather educate boys as boys are culturally considered to be of more value and capable to contribute to the family. Teenage pregnancies, early marriages and STIs amongst girls is high.
How has COVID-19 and Lockdowns generally affected the various education systems, particularly for disadvantaged girls?
Lockdown has increased the vulnerability of said girls as many of them are under forced enclosure with their perpetrators. It is of no surprise that sexual abuse has increased, leading to more teenage pregnancies and child marriages. Once they get pregnant, a number of these girls will not be allowed to continue with their education or are simply unable to continue with their education due to various circumstances. Lockdown came with food shortages and some families expect their girl children to go look for food and that exposes them to dangers which, inter alia, includes dangers of sexual abuse and grooming. Lockdown has led to some parents to lose their jobs and as a result child labour is on the rise in order to bring in more income and this is further exposing girls to bleak uncertainties.
What solutions has the government proposed to ensure continued access to Education and how effective has it been?
All countries introduced online learning through computers, radio and televisions for all children. But not all households have computers, radios and television, especially in rural areas which means, on the face of it, unequal access to educational material. Girls are already struggling with costs of feminine hygiene supplies such as Sanitary Towels, and the extra cost of the online learning translates to educational material becoming more a “luxury” expense than a necessary one.
What are the challenges your organization faces in trying to help girls access education in your countries?
Zimbabwe (Natasha Ruya – Shamwari Yemwanasikana)
The Marange Apostolic Church, with its huge following, does not encourage the education of children let alone girls. Girls are married off young. It is very difficult to penetrate this community and work with girls. The government has no policy in place that allows the teaching of Sexual and Reproductive Health Education in schools to reduce teenage pregnancies and the rate of girls dropping out of school.
Uganda (Hajara Namuyimbwa – Girl Up Initiative)
Corruption of the police is a barrier as police officials demand bribes for them to take up cases of rape and domestic violence. Victims who do not have money will not have their cases investigated seriously thus limiting such victims access to justice.
South Africa (Faith Maringa – Roots of an African Child)
Cultural Beliefs with rigid gender roles are entrenched in some communities where they believe girls are there to be married off and not be educated. Changing the mindset for such communities is a huge challenge but a challenge that needs to be overcoming nonetheless.
As an organization what strategies have you come up with to make sure girls continue accessing education even after lockdowns?
Girl Care – Tanzania
We offer Knowledge and Community Education where parents are encouraged to spend time with their daughters, giving them necessary and applicable talks. Under our Community and Parents Awareness program, we engage with religious leaders to emphasize on the importance of education for girls in their churches.
Roots of an African Child – South Africa
We visit schools to give talks and partner with local health institutions on issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health Education, Gender-Based Violence, Rape and offer psychological support. Additionally, we donate Sanitary Towels to disadvantaged girls.
Shamwari Yemwanasikana – Zimbabwe
Our Sustainable and Livelihoods Department has started a project of making reusable sanitary pads for sustainability purposes. COVID-!9 On Wheels Campaign is a mobile Awareness Campaign in different districts to reach out too many girls. We disseminate accurate age appropriate information regarding COVID19 with Health Officials.
Girl Up Initiative – Uganda
Bring Voices Together. Our program involves the whole community and we give age appropriate information regarding issues that affect girls. Religious leaders are encouraged to talk about such issues in church.
It was observed that the problems which each organization encountered in their respective countries was not unique. We shared common problems regarding the challenges that girls were facing in their journey of getting education. It was agreed that we should collaborate more as organizations and exchange possible ideas and solutions to our challenges.
One of the participants suggested that we (the organizations) could come together and with one voice write a petition to the African Union, SADC and East African Community organization to adopt a policy that will push individual governments to advocate for the promotion and protection of girls and their education.
Host: IThemba for Girls Trust
- Girls Care – Tanzania
- Shamwari Yemwanasikana – Zimbabwe
- Girl Up Initiative – Uganda
- Roots of an African Child – South Africa
Source: IThemba for Girls Trust