“Establish essential support services for girls during COVID 19 lockdowns”

Women who are part of Heal Zimbabwe’s Anti Gender Based Violence (GBV) Ambassadors have called on government to take contingent measures to ensure that in future COVID 19 lockdowns, young girls receive essential support services to help safeguard against early child marriages and teenage pregnancies. This came out during a virtual dialogue organised by the Anti-GBV Ambassadors in commemoration of the International Womens’ Day on 9 March 2021.

Participants noted that owing to the lack of essential support services such as Safe Spaces for young girls, teenage pregnancies and early child marriages spiked during the COVID 19 lockdown. “Our girls would spend most of their time idle and the absence of safe platforms for young girls where they are groomed and taught on issues of sex and early marriages has worsened the plight of young girls,” said one participant from Makoni. Participants also noted that community engagement is key to overcoming such issues. “There is need to work closely with parents, caregivers, teachers, faith leaders, traditional leaders and girls themselves who know the situations better, and partnering with them to make sure they get support”, added another participant from Gutu. It also came out during the dialogue meeting that school closures have impacts beyond the direct loss of education but also includes the loss of social contact, support of peers, teachers, the opportunity to build networks for the future and the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information. As part of way forwad, participants resolved that government was supposed to work hand in glove with local communities and create Safe Space platforms for young girls. Participants further recommended that government was supposed to impose stiffer penalties for men who force young girls into early child marriages.

Heal Zimbabwe utilizes various strategies to address conflicts in local communities. One of these ways is the use of community dialogues, an initiative for communities to discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in their communities. The platforms also equip communities with relevant information on Covid 19, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and human rights. Such platforms also facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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