Statement on the International Day of the Girl Child 2020

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

 

 

FAWEZI Alumni and GGAZ jointly celebrate International Day of the Girl Child 2018.

Last Friday  the Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe Chapter  (FAWEZI)  Alumni in partnership with the Girl Guide Association of  Zimbabwe (GGAZ) celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child (IDCG) at Cleveland Dam Recreational Park.

The day was filled presentations from the different categories from the GGAZ –Sunbeams, Brownies and Guiders and also from the FAWEZI Alumni. The guest of Honour Mrs Bvumbe who is the GGAZ Harare Provincial Adviser spoke to the girls about their rights and, responsibilities and the various forms of abuse.

“I want all of you to be able to identify abuse and report it, whether it has happened to you or a friend,” she said.

Mrs Bvumbe also taught the girls about self-respect saying that each and every girls is special in their own way.

“As girls and as little as we are we have the duty to respect and protect our bodies,” she said

Speaking at the same event FAWEZI Alumni Vice Chairperson Wendy Muzite spoke to the girls about valuing their education from a tender age.

“You all need to be serious with your school at all times so that you prepare yourselves for higher levels of education,” she said.

The girls also took part in games and were later asked to identify lessons learnt from each game most of which where team work, concentration and being truthful. To wrap up the day the participants took turns in horse riding, while some also went for brief canoeing.

Participants were drawn from Louis Mount Batten, North Park and Selborne Routledge Primary Schools.

IDCG is celebrated annually on 11th October the main aim being to promote girl’s empowerment and fulfillment of their human rights while also highlighting the challenges that girls all over the world face.

Arming HER with skills for the work place

Today the Forum for African Women Educationalists – Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) joined in the  observance of  the International Day of the Girl Child (IDCG) under the theme ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force’.  October 11 was declared the International Day of the Girl Child by the United Nations General Assembly On December 19, 2011 with the  day being set aside to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.

As we observe IDCG for FAWEZI it is not only about remembering girls’ access to education, staying in school and completing education but also about preparing them to enter the world of work  inline with the 2018 IDCG theme ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force ‘.

Our girls today are growing up in an environment which is fraught with challenges and uncertainties. It is amid these uncertainties that they strive to access education, stay in school and complete their studies. As we remember our girls this year we urge all educational institutions to bear in mind that the fight for the education of the girl child is not a discriminatory issue. While we have reached parity in access to education, the completion rate of girls beyond the second year of secondary education is low. This is where most learners begin to think about careers and their areas of interest in terms of professions. This is where we begin to lose the participation of girls in issues of development.

It is against such a background that as an organisation we seek to advocate for and support the participation and performance of girls in the ‘21st century skills’ which include Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Arts and ICT. We are of the belief that if the barriers to their participation in these areas are broken from school level the results will be more females in the related industries which will also produce more female role models for the girls back in school. We believe that girls can achieve their opportunities if they do no not face gender based discrimination.

As Zimbabwe we have a very supportive environment and policies which encourage the education of the girl child. Partnerships and collaborations between Civil Society Organisations and the public sector to make the necessary interventions to increase girls’ access to education, staying in school and completing.

It is our desire that every girl child in Zimbabwe accesses and completes a basic education which will position her to be of meaningful contribution in her society. In relation to the IDCG2018 theme we call upon women who are in different sectors to take part in empowering the girl child through mentorship and career guidance so that we jointly create a future skilled female workforce. This however can also be achieved by tackling gender stereotypes across professions and addressing the many systemic barriers faced by girls and women.

On the IDCG we also emphasize on the need to intervene on the plight of the girls who face various socioeconomic difficulties evidenced by child marriages, forced marriages, sexual harassment, emotional abuse, child labour, human trafficking and unemployment among others.

Over and above all we call upon the government of Zimbabwe to continue the efforts of prioritising education financing and create an enabling environment for Civil Society Organisations working to support education in Zimbabwe.

FAWEZI is a non-governmental organisation established in 1998 and registered as a private voluntary organisation in 1999. Since the organisation has worked with communities, schools, civil society, non-governmental organizations and ministries to achieve gender equity and equality in education through targeted programs. Its work influences government policy, builds public awareness, demonstrates best educational practice through effective models, and encourages the adoption of these models by governments and institutions of education.