Protect girls from child marriage
Our new project in cooperation with Plan International aims to prevent child marriage in Zimbabwe – this time in a different inland region.
In June 2023 we renewed our commitment in Zimbabwe and support a project to empower girls! This time the project is located inland, in kwekwe in the Midlands Province region (see map). Today, Kwekwe is the center of gold mining in Zimbabwe and has over 100.000 inhabitants.
With access to education and professional future opportunities, we strengthen the independence and self-confidence of young girls. With educational work and prevention of violence, we demand that the adults in the community take responsibility, protect children's rights and not accept sexual abuse.
Child marriage is gender-specific violence – fundamental to this is the anchoring of gender inequality: As a result, many girls have no childhood and can sometimes be exposed to continuous violence. Forced marriage and child marriage are more common in rural regions: 40 percent of girls are married here before the age of 18, in urban regions it is almost half less (source: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey MICS 2019).
The Midlands Province area, in which the Kwekwe project region is located, ranks fifth in the frequency of child marriage, according to the UNICEF report - in this region 31 percent of girls are married before the age of 18.
The reasons lie primarily in the lack of prospects, the all-encompassing poverty, which is due to the mostly only informal work opportunities and does not provide any income security. Parents often don't know how to pay school fees - so it often happens that a girl drops out of school too early and gets married so that she no longer has to pay these costs.
Due to poverty and a lack of education, there is also little awareness of health risks: many young people are not sexually educated and are left to their own devices because the environment has not been sexually educated either. The risk of sexual exploitation and abuse is therefore high. In addition, the risk of exploitation increases due to the high youth unemployment in the Kwekwe region - young people can fall into prostitution at an early age or get married early due to the economic factor.
It is therefore our concern to explain children's rights and youth protection laws to the community, the parents' home and the teachers and school management in the Kwekwe region in workshops and advisory services - to protect girls and boys.
Concrete measures planned:
Training for teachers and headteachers to teach sexuality education
We enable girls at risk of child marriage and early pregnancy to receive high-quality education and inclusive support: school clubs between the ages of 10 and 19 are set up to provide sexual education and explain gender-sensitive information on "Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights" (SRHR). This includes the right of access to health services in the area of sexuality and reproduction, the right to information and education about sexuality and the right to be able to decide for oneself about the pregnancy. These rights are human rights to which all people are entitled equally.
leadership qualities of young women are funded: Each project year, a group of young women will take part in a six-month program in which they will be trained in SRHR, campaigning and advocacy.
We are in contact with young people in many areas in order to raise awareness of their own rights and health and solidarity among young people. The best way to reach them is when they can do their favorite activities. We offer the following activities:
Youth education through sport: Sports activities such as netball, soccer and volleyball strengthen the sense of community and the commitment of young people to young people. In addition, sexual and reproductive health and rights are discussed in roundtables.
Youth education through theater and music: We also provide information about SRHR in our established youth groups that deal with acting and making music. In addition, the local cooperation partner Katswe Sistahood works with surrounding clinics and provides access to contraceptives, HIV testing and referrals for treatment, STI screening, support with menstrual hygiene and cancer screening.
For people particularly affected by gender-based violence, we distribute service vouchers and provide temporary accommodation where they can stay safely.
Insights of the project already carried out Prevention of child marriage and early pregnancy in the province of Manicland we use and organize visits to highlight the factors influencing child marriage.
Provision of professional start-up kits for young people
A fund improves access to the formal work sector: This secures a sustainable livelihood for girls and young women and promotes breaking out of the cycle of poverty. Through training in basic life skills and the promotion of entrepreneurial thinking and action, we strengthen girls' economic independence and self-confidence. The girls' business ideas are also realized through this fund.
Trained local community leaders on child marriage legislation, child protection and access to education
Traditional and local authorities are trained on national and regional legislation on child marriage, child protection and access to education. Child protection committees raise awareness of child marriage and support legislation on education and marriage laws. The project takes into account that traditional authorities can influence people's attitudes towards SRHR and gender-based violence and thus change negative social norms.
Involvement of political decision-makers and traditional authorities in the form of political dialogues
We would like to improve support structures for young girls who are threatened by child marriage or who have already done so. In order to change the structures in the long term, people from different areas have to get involved in education and awareness-raising work - so cooperation with local authorities is extremely important in order to create effective changes. We do this by working with government to take action for vulnerable girls and young women and implement them in a timely manner. This can reduce the influence of the strong informal sector. Through discussions with Katswe Sistahood - "A world of powerful young women wirh agency to effect meaningful change" – Traditional authorities are empowered to respond to gender-based violence.
EMPOWERING GIRLS IN ZIMBABWE
If you also think this sustainable project is worthy of support and would like to support girls by educating them and strengthening their self-confidence and solidarity with each other, you can do so here:DONATION
Photos © Plan International and the Help with Plan Foundation