On the 23rd of October 2020 FAWEZI held a workshop with the non-teaching staff in primary and secondary schools from Muzarabani District. The Training focused on identification, reporting, and responding to Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Harmful practices. The training was done in line with the project “Prevention and Social Norms to End Violence Against Women and Girls- Spotlight Initiative”
On the 12th and 13th of November 2020 FAWEZI met with representatives from our Shamva and Chitungwiza project schools to review their draft school level Codes of Conduct. This was in line with our project ‘School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) – A Whole School Approach – Pilot Initiative.’ We also invited representatives from Teacher’s Unions to support the schools in revising their drafts. The project schools in consultation with the relevant stakeholders managed to develop drafts that reflect School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) in order to promote positive and safe school environments.
From the 23rd to the 27th of November 2020 FAWEZI held learner trainings using the TUSEME/Speak Out girls empowerment model in project schools in the Bulilima Districts. The participating schools were Usher Primary and Secondary, Dombodema and, Sikhathini high and Mnigau Primary. Tuseme is a student-centred empowerment model that uses theater-for-development techniques to identify and address concerns that hinder girls’ social and academic development. Through Tuseme clubs, girls develop action plans to solve their problems, involving the support of peers, educators, parents and community members. This training was under the project ‘ prevention and Social Norms to End Violence against Women and Girls- SPOTLIGHT Initiative Program
The 11th of October marked the world International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) as declared by the United Nations in 2011. It is a key Global observance which is dedicated to the observation and recognition of the girls’ rights and the unique challenges they face.
This 2020 IDCG was commemorated under the theme, “My voice, our equal future”, which speaks to the need to give the girls a platform to air their voices on issues that concern their empowerment, fulfilment of rights and solving the problems that they face. It was also celebrated in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and movement restrictions also raising a further need to critically address the challenges that have been worsened by the global pandemic.
The COVID -19 and the indefinite lock-down in Zimbabwe has hit hard on the country’s education sector. The effects of the pandemic are aggravating pre-existing issues and inequalities in education, and threatening to erode much of the gains in balancing numbers of boys and girls who enrol and complete education at all levels . It is therefore imperative that during such momentous times the voices of the girls are heard in order to come up with gender specific redress, and solutions to the challenges resulting from the spread of the COVID—19 and measures to control it.
Disheartening statistics continue to be shared highlighting how many girls may not go back to the classroom post the school closure and the COVID-19. The many reasons have a bearing on the empowerment and future of the girl child. Some girls have fallen pregnant from sexual relationships, some from rape and some forced marriages .The lockdown period has also forced vulnerable girls to spend more time with their abusers, increased idleness and also pushed girls into risky behaviours to raise money for food since most house hold incomes were also negatively affected.
The Herald 12 October 2020 (https://www.herald.co.zw/400-drop-out-over-pregnancies-illness/) reported that over 400 girls from four districts in Manicaland have dropped out of school altogether owing to pregnancy, marriage, financial challenges and illness. This is just statistics from one province which are also expected to rise in the province and nationwide.
This and many more reports is reason enough to call for gender specific responses to disasters and pandemics. Indeed COVID-19 has disrupted daily lives and systems but a gendered look goes on to interrogate the impact between sexes. It is also crucial to note that the education of both boys and girls has been compromised and girls are hit the hardest because of the existing inequalities and gender roles. As an organization, we reiterate the need not to “leave anyone behind” and to be mindful of the Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5 on inclusive quality education and lifelong learning and gender equality.
As an organisation that has been supporting efforts to eliminate gender disparities in education in Zimbabwe since 1998, we delight in celebrating gains made so far. According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) Zimbabwe had reached parity in terms of enrollment of boys and girls in primary schools. The rates of completion and excellence between the boys and the girls pre- COVID- 19 was also worth marking as an achievement especially as girls had been historically denied a chance at education. However of late FAWEZI acknowledges with regret the loss in the educational gains. We note with sadness that not all girls will be returning to school, seating for final examinations and not all girls have had access to alternative learning platforms. This has a big impact on the equality and quality of education for all.
In observance of the IDGC 2020 FAWEZI under the School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) Whole School Approach (WSA) -Pilot Initiative organized a dialogue session with girls from the project schools in Chitungwiza District. The session was mainly aimed at having girls speak about the challenges they are facing especially in light of the COVID-19 and the subsequent measures to curb its spread. The girls buttressed our fears though an anonymous question and answer session where they shared their challenges. Issues raised ranged from sexual and physical abuse, teen pregnancy, child marriage, child labour, lack of adequate food and sanitary wear and school drop outs.
During this difficult time and phased re-opening schools, FAWEZI commits to individually and jointly work towards the protection of children and their rights, and also come up with solutions for similar incidences in future.
Our recommendations include:
- Back to school efforts must consider strategies to reach out to girls who are likely to never return to school.
- Improvement in the implementation of Non Formal Education and effective school – re – entry and continuation policies
- Schools (heads, teachers, parents) to embrace non formal education to cater for pregnant girls.
- Intensify Comprehensive Sexuality Education so as equip girls and boys with knowledge to make informed decisions.
- Strong Collaboration between government and CSO’s to plan and develop emergency distance learning mechanisms.
- Improvement of teacher welfare
- Set up programs that support pregnant and parenting learners such as child care
We held our celebrations of the #IDGC2020 International Day of the Girl Child on the 9th of October at Seke 2 High School. FAWEZI invited girls and boys from schools under – School Related Gender Based Violence -A Whole School Approach -Pilot Initiative project. Amid the COVID -19 pandemic, lock-down, prolonged school closure, current absence of teachers In the schools we offered our girls a platform to speak on issues affecting them. FAWEZI engaged Rejoice Nyewerwayi Nharaunda to facilitate an anonymous question and answer session whilst also offering psychological support to the girls and the boys.Issues raised by the learners include teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, child marriage, lack of adequate food and sanitary wear , water shortages, illegal abortion, and fear around the uncertainty of their education. Representatives from the Chitungwiza District Office also gave responses and solutions to some of the issues arising.
From the 28th to the 30th of September 2020, FAWEZI in partnership with Action Aid Zimbabwe, Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe and Aids Counselling Trust conducted project exit meetings in Hopley, Chitungwiza and Shamva respectively. These meetings were held so as to officially close the Empowered Adolescent Girls for Improved Quality of Life Project with the district officers. It also served as a platform to take note of what beneficiaries learnt and benefited from the program and also get testimonies from stakeholders on the success of the project.
On the 19th and 20th of August 2020, FAWEZI in partnership with Action Aid Zimbabwe, Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe and Aids Counselling Trust held an Sexual and Reproductive Health outreach/ mobile clinic at the Sharon Cohen School in Chitungwiza. The main objective of the outreach was to give adolescent girls access to holistic services (SRHR, psycho-social support and police services) under one roof and free of charge. The whole idea was to promote a multi-stakeholder coordinated approach that will then result in a well-rounded adolescent girl. The stakeholders that were represented were Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC), Chitungwiza Central Hospital, Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare (MoPSLSW), Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MOPSE), Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small to Medium Enterprises, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Victim Friendly Unit (VFU), Youth Advocates Zimbabwe, REPSSI, New Start Centre, Population Services Zimbabwe and Chitungwiza City Health.
FAWEZI conducted zoom dialogues on the 30th and 31st of July with adolescent girls in Chitungwiza and Shamva to schools to discuss topics around menstrual hygiene management, Violence Against Women Girls (VAWG) and Sexual Reproduction Health Reproductive (SRHR) issues in light of the current COVID 19 lockdown. The girls outlined challenges they were facing which include, teenage pregnancies even among examination candidates, child marriages, lack of water and economic hardships which is combined with rising prices of sanitary pads. Most adolescent girls yearned on how they are facing economic hardships as they are no longer able to perform their income generating activities due to the imposed COVID 19 strict regulations like vending. Subsequently FAWEZI took up the conversation to national radio platform Issues Panenyaya . The aim was to engage more stakeholders whilst also targeting decision makers in the discussion on the issues affecting the girls.
FAWEZI ,in partnership with Action Aid Zimbabwe, Aids Counselling Trust and Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe , handed over television sets and G and C room equipment to ten project schools in Shamva and Chitungwiza on the 18th and 26th of August 2020 respectively. The main aim was to support the vision of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to teach Guidance and Counselling (G&C) effectively and provide adolescent girls with the opportunity to learn more on menstrual hygiene and also the donated hygiene and medical packs can also be used during times of emergency. The G & C room equipment was comprised of hygiene packs, medical kits, and single bed mattresses and tapped water buckets. In addition to that, Seke 3 High School, Tafadzwa Primary School, Chaminuka Primary School, Madziwa Mine Primary and Secondary Schools received an additional 5000 liter mega tank per school to assist them in addressing water shortages within their respective schools.
FAWEZI held codes of conduct planning meetings on the 31st of August in Shamva with 5 project schools and on the 11 of September in Chitungwiza. The aim of the meetings was to equip the core teams with knowledge on how to develop school level Codes of Conduct in line with existing national and International laws and policies. The meeting was attended by representatives from the District Office, school heads and project link teachers. FAWEZI engaged a legal resource person to give guidance to drafting an effective Code of Conduct.