Gender Gender

Early pregancies in Shiwang’andu

CHILDREN’S CORNER with PANIC CHILUFYA
LAST week we carried a story of how some young girls in Shiwang’andu in Muchinga Province did not sit for the recent grade seven examinations as some had allegedly gotten pregnant or married to Chinese contractors in the area.
Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education chief education standards officer Vengi Sinda  during a Camfed meeting in Lusaka revealed that Shiwang’andu had been reporting numerous cases of absenteeism because some of the girls have opted to get married. Girls in grade three are getting pregnant and marrying; this is a drawback in the fight for women empowerment and national development.
Shiwang’andu is not an isolated case; Zambia has been overwhelmed by girls dropping out of school due to pregnancy or opting to get married. It is for this reason that Government introduced the re-entry policy in 2001 but sadly most girls have not taken advantage of this opportunity.
A close investigation in Shiwang’andu revealed that some of the girls offer themselves to the men as a result of poverty. Most  are weekly boarders who approach the men with the hope of getting money for food but unfortunately the girls only end up being taken advantage of. In the process some get pregnant and eventually drop out of school; in some cases they compromise their health as they contract sexually-transmitted infections.
Some parents and guardians spoken to explained that they are unable to control and discipline their young girls for fear of being cited for infringing on the rights of the girls. The girls have taken advantage of the fact that their parents do not understand the meaning of human rights by threatening to have them cited for violating their rights. What these girls do not realise is that human rights are meant to protect them and help them grow into responsible adults.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, 7.3 million teenage girls give birth every year; 2 million of these are under 15 years which translates to about roughly 5,000 giving birth everyday worldwide. And a significant number of these girls lose their lives due to complications because they are not yet physically ready to go through such a difficult process.
These problems have the ability to create a domino effect; once a girl has a baby at a young age, her chances of acquiring an education are drastically reduced.
The girls do not look at the bigger picture to realise that early  pregnancy or getting married instead of school takes a negative toll on their health, education and rights. Indulging in these vices prevents them from realising their full potential,  ultimately affecting their ability to provide for themselves and their babies.
Eventually, the country’s development is affected as such  depressing statistics make it impossible to have gender equity of 50/50 percent.
It is important to adopt a holistic approach which does not only dwell on changing girls’ behaviour. There is need to sensitise parents in areas such as Shiwang’angu on the meaning of human rights and its benefit to their children.  It is important to keep seeking to change attitudes in society so that girls are encouraged to stay in school. It is our duty to motivate the girl child to appreciate the value of education. Otherwise we will end up with a generation of young mothers who will forever be dependent on men to survive;
Remember, children are our future, until next week, take care.
pchilufya@daily-mail.co.zm; gender@daily-mail.co.zm.

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