BY LINDA MASARIRA
Her lack of education will affect the social, economic and political development of tomorrow’s nation”.
As we celebrate this day, we sadly note that girls in rural Zimbabwe continue to suffer a lot of impediments as compared to boys. Girl children in Zimbabwe, especially those residing in rural areas are still being deprived of adequate education, forced into child marriages, have no access to sanitary wear, no access to information and are suffering from poverty.
Have you ever thought of the plight of the girl child in rural areas who is lacking sanitary pads and improvising with banana leaves, newspapers, rags, leaves, tissue paper, cow dung and old pieces of cloth? There are plenty of girls in urban or rural areas who are being forced to use unhygenic methods during their menstrual days because their parents can’t afford to buy them sanitary wear because it is expensive.
Seventy-two percent of the girls living in rural areas use soft bark tissue during menstruation and do not attend school as a result of the indignity they face during their menstrual days. Sadly, a lot of girls have easily been convinced to become wives of men who provide them with money for sanitary pads that their poor parents cannot afford.
A survey done in 2014 by the Women and Youth Affairs ministry indicated that 20% of girls miss school due to period pain, while 62% miss school due to lack of sanitary wear and 26% stay home because of heavy flows during menstruation.
Girls living with disabilities are the most vulnerable and hardest hit by the crisis of preserving their dignity during menstrual cycles.
The girl child is vulnerable to diseases due to use of unhygienic materials. Sanitary pads should be accessible to every girl child in schools, churches and local clinics.
Menstruation is not a choice, sex is, if government can provide free condoms to the nation for pleasure, why can’t they also invest in the dignity of the girl child and ensure that sanitary wear is provided for free.
Her dignity is my dignity, and every woman in Zimbabwe should amplify her voice towards this worthy and noble cause.
Economic and social rights are often thought of as secondary, but educational and economic inequality is an underground pathway to violence and poverty. It is critically important for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to ensure that all girl children in rural areas access quality education until they finish school. When you educate a girl, you have educated a nation.
Regardless of the fact that the right to clean, safe and potable water is a fundamental and constitutional human right as enshrined in section 77 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, girls in rural areas still don’t have access to clean and safe water. In the dry season in most of region 5 areas, girls wake up at 4am to fetch water before they go to school.
In most cases, the water sources are as far as 6km away. Just the thought of a young girl walking that distance everyday with a 20-litre bucket balanced on her head is heartbreaking and shows the hardship that girls are still facing in our country.
In game park areas like Binga, Gokwe and Jambezi they share unprotected water sources with domestic and wild animals. The Ministry of Local government should ensure that rural district councils get enough budgets to sink boreholes, which provide clean water.
As Zimbabwe Women In Politics Alliance, we pledge full support of girls to eliminate all gender stereotypes in our quest to address the systematic barriers women face in fulfilling their potential.
In our programming, we are going to facilitate dialogue, inspire and challenge girls to identify and pursue their preferred career choices and encourage them to invade the traditionally male dominated work and political spaces.
In conclusion, I urge all women in leadership to assist the girl child and help her break the glass ceilings. We have faced the adversities of the existing patriarchal dominance and barriers limiting our full potential socially, economically and politically.
The best we can do for the girl child is to create a sustainable environment for her to thrive and become who she wants to be.
We can only have a skilled girl force when we eliminate discrimination, empower and educate the girl child. Without dignity and freedom, she will not rise to her full potential.
We pray that the women in the Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe will push for free sanitary wear for the girl child and women in Zimbabwe.