In celebrating the day of an African child this year, we went to the Ngozi Mine slums where we screened two of our short films (Amacala 1 & 2), we spent the day with children living in that area and got to converse with them. The most disheartening fact is that they do not have clean water and sanitation which is detrimental to their health. This year’s theme is “Eliminating harmful practices against children, the children in key populations should not be left behind”.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 not being met in that area means that we have more children being vulnerable to various diseases which will then limit their growth. While some go to school, some are still looking for sponsors. Just as education is an empowerment tool, it should be of paramount importance to key populations because they are the most vulnerable.
Sexual and reproductive health services that include dissemination of information are a must because half of the teenagers there are already sexually active and even though mobile clinics frequent visit the community, there is still need for buttressing of information through different media. One of the girls said that they get bullied by their sexual partners and they are afraid of saying no to sex or even negotiate for safe sex because they will be beaten to a pulp. Another girl said the situation at their homes pushes them to indulge in sexual activity at a young age because they will be trying to fend for their families. A third girl said that they don't take pre and post prophylaxis pills because they don’t want to be judged. The three views show that there is need for advocacy and SRHR services because we cannot just watch and do nothing while their physical and mental health deteriorates. It is even more worrying when the parents in that area do not converse with their children regarding these issues.
The young women and girls in this community are victims of circumstance and socialisation and need a change of mindset. The parents are not to be blamed but they ought to be taught on how to approach their children and vice versa because in as much as different humanitarian groups can share information and make donations the children spend most of their time with parents so it becomes a problem if they are not empowered. The issue of child marriage, which I prefer to term “statutory rape” is rampant in that area. This is one of the harmful practices we are trying our best to fight. This puts the lives of children in that area at halt as they don't get to pursue their dreams of bettering their lives and breaking the shackles of poverty. They are impoverished even more because without education, the future is blurry including that of their children. Child labour continues to be a problem, instead of spending time at school, most of them will be working trying to help out at home.
As Amplifying Girls Voices, our help alone is not enough but if we could join hands, then we can help unleash their potential and make them leap to greater heights and the fight against harmful practices will be stronger than ever. Thabo Mbeki once said, “None dare challenge me when I say I am an African”, Happy international day of the African child
In an evolving society, it is only right to recognise the efforts being made by young people, especially young women, in creating impactful change within their societies and spaces. From the city of Bulawayo shines iconic young women who are game changers in civic spaces from significantly young ages. Having reached out to more than 300 people directly and a number above 500 holistically, Ayanda Mitchell Jele prides herself for these achievements through her initiatives in the civic space. Miss Jele is a vibrant, innovative feminist and philanthropist. An Entrepreneurship student at Lupane State University and a mentee under the Intracen’s Coffee roulette, Jele believes that her passion lies in the empowerment of rural adolescent girls and young women in a manner that encourages them to take up space and opportunities for sustainable solutions and livelihoods.
The idea of feminism to her refers to the aspect of representing the small percentage of young female founders within civics Ayanda believes that the world needs more female founders, hence her emphasis on that. It does not stop there, feminism goes beyond advocating for women issues to be heard and addressed, it also has everything to do with educating society, including men and boys, on women’s issues. A shift in mindset is all that is needed to complete this journey that has been in existence for centuries. The young feminist is very much driven by that she believes in the potential young girls have to make it big. Whenever she spots such potential, her goal is to assist that individual until they thrive in their endeavour.
Working in the civic space at the age of 20 has come with a lot of benefits as according to Jele. The growth and transformation is without a doubt a part of this growth. She says her participation has allowed her opportunities such as working with prominent individuals, learning new skills and growing her networks and followership. Her motivation lies in the activeness of other young people who are her age mates, the likes of Bertha Kwezeya, as this makes her believe in herself more and take pride in her work. “Working with organisations such as HOCIC (Hope for a Child in Christ) has helped me in implementing my initiatives and reaching out to more people especially since l also work as part of their programs”, says Jele. The exposure and experience helped give birth to her organisation AfriPRIME where she sits as the co-founder of the youth-led and serving organisation currently operational in Bulawayo, Umguza, Umzingwane, Bubi and Matobo. Working together with other organisations and women is what she believes true feminism look like and stands for as this creates a strong frontline of goal oriented and success driven initiatives. Women can achieve more if they believe in themselves but most importantly if they believe in each other and support one another.
Like any other journey of leadership, her quest for a better society has come with challenges too as part of the package with age and gender being the outstanding elements. Being a woman in a sexist society comes with a number of challenges, what is even more frightening is being a woman who is also very young. Young people struggle with getting the recognition and acknowledgement they deserve for their outstanding work. Jele says that she has been undermined in some spaces because she is a young woman and had to address an audience of the older generation. Being young should not be a hindrance but rather a motivation and there is need for more young people to participate and own their ground as well as create platforms that serve fellow young people just as Amplifying Girls Voices through Digital Arts is doing. Young women are the future, they own it so it is high time they are given the space to advocate for what they want and be the drivers of change. The future is female!
The ultimate goal of any sexual and reproductive health program is to ensure cost effectiveness, quality and sustainability. Reproductive health awareness is an educational approach which is both relevant and sensitive to many communities’ existing sexual and reproductive health needs and concerns. When working with community groups, a participatory approach that includes reproductive health awareness concepts is a simple non-threatening way for programs to quickly expand beyond pure information giving and exploring what reproductive health means to people.
Although many community sexual and reproductive health programs do not use the term reproductive health awareness, they use techniques similar to the reproductive health awareness education approach, when facilitating discussions about sexual or reproductive health. If reproductive health awareness is identified and included as one of the dimensions of future sexual and reproductive health programs, this will hopefully strengthen the program’s overall quality and effectiveness.
Most young people experience confusing and conflicting information about relationships and sexuality as they change from childhood to adulthood. This has led to an increase in the need for young people to access reliable information, which prepares them for a secure and fulfilling sex life. Properly implemented, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) responds to this need, empowering young people to make informed decisions about relationships and sex in world where gender-based violence, gender inequality, early and unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) pose serious risks to their health and well-being. Equally, the lack of quality, age appropriate, developmental sex education and relationship education may leave children and adolescents at risk for sexual misconduct and sexual exploitation.
CSE plays an important role in addressing the health and well-being of children and adolescents. Using a student-centred approach, CSE not only provides children and young people with age-appropriate education and categories on human rights, gender equality, relationships, fertility, sexual risks and health bans, but also provides opportunities for gender expression in a straight forward way, emphasizing values such as respect, inclusion, non-discrimination, equality, compassion, responsibility and reconciliation.
National healthcare systems rarely prioritize sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and the Covid-19 pandemic has made it extremely difficult to access SRH services because the current health regulations make it difficult for many people to seek care. In addition public health efforts to advise women and girls on how and when to seek SRH services are limited. Many SRH specialists are not able to function effectively during the epicentre of the pandemic, and funding is redirected to efforts to respond to COVID-19. Delays in SRH care will inevitably lead to other health problems, including an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies, illegal abortions that may lead to injury or death and sexually transmitted diseases.
Period poverty is a term that only started popping up in these last few years, however, it has played a vital part in the oppression of girls and women for many years but was just never paid attention to due to the stigma that exists around the topic of menstruation as well as internalized misogyny.
The term period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. In as much as the main cause of period poverty is financial instability there is a lot more that contributes to it such as the stigma I mentioned above as well as periods being seen as too much of a taboo to speak about in communities making it harder for those who don’t have the access to sanitary products to seek help
Menstruation has been painted out as unclean and embarrassing all around the world. Unbelievable myths were drawn up to control women under the guise of their menstrual cycle in both traditional, cultural and religious settings. These myths created surrounding menstruation have evidently hindered women and girls from living their normal lives and taking part in numerous activities during their cycle due to the fact that they are seen as impure during this time.
It is estimated that 60% of girls and women are affected by period poverty in Zimbabwe’s rural communities. Girls miss a substantial number of days of school a year which automatically puts them behind their male counterparts. Most of these girls use the most unhygienic alternatives such as using cloth, leaves and cow dung. These alternatives leave the young ladies vulnerable to infections and often their local clinics don’t have the capacity to treat these.
The girl child has had to fight due to the stigmatized biological function that she has no power over. UNESCO states that 1 in 10 girls in Southern Africa will miss school during their period due to lack of sanitary products and eventually drop out, immediately putting young women at a disadvantage and hindering them from getting an education to better their life which is perpetuating a cycle of women depending on men. This as well contributing to the higher numbers of men that hold senior positions in the work place compared to women.
The effects of period poverty are carried out even into the work setting of young women’s lives. In an article senior reporter Evidence Chenjerai wrote “ARE MYTHS ABOUT MENSURATION PUSHING SOME WOMEN OUT OF ZIMBABWE’S MINING INDUSTRY” for the Global press journal, brought to light some of the myths about women’s periods that are being used to oppress women in the work place. The article was very shocking seeing as a certain woman’s very own workers did not want her to visit while they were working as they claimed that If she came while she was on her period the gold they were mining would disappear. It is also widely believed that menstrual blood is used in witchcraft
Change is possible if we work together as a community to eradicate the stigma that lurks around the topic of menstruation. We can achieve this by having open conversations including every member of the society that will enable better understanding when it comes to the topic of periods. Having the boy child understand, from an early age, that periods are normal and not embarrassing at all. These talks aimed at educating the society will fix the social side of period poverty however the finical side needs more work. The prices of pads are through the sky in shops seeing as most brands are imported. I believe it’s time as a country that we become self-sufficient in the production of pads in order to make them affordable
“While a woman sheds the blood of life each moon at menstruation, men can only shed the blood of death through warfare” - KATHA POLLIT
To all the young ladies reading this article there’s nothing unclean or embarrassing about your cycle and never let the community convince you otherwise. Embrace your biological make up.
In celebration of the International Menstrual Health Day, we say let’s create a world where no woman or girl is held back because they menstruate by 2030
Rape, early and forced marriages, unwanted pregnancies, school dropouts, sextortion, human trafficking and all manner of assault. These are some of the many challenges faced by girls and there are numerous platforms that address girls’ issues in our society in a bid to ensure that girls are not victimized, marginalized or exploited and left vulnerable. These platforms can be physical engagements whilst some are online platforms. Over the years there has been a rise in the establishment of women forums and organizations that specifically tackle girls’ issues for instance in Bulawayo there is Women Institute for Leadership Development (WILD), Emthonjeni Women’s Forum, Young Women’s Alliance to name a few. Through the assistance of women’s organisations there have been capacity building trainings, workshops, symposiums that seek to empower girls on their rights and what is expected of them in a society. Girls have been marginalised in so many ways especially when it comes to education and leadership roles thus capacity trainings give young women a voice. It is noticeable that these platforms are critical and positively impact girls’ lives as they are now in the core when it comes to leadership roles; for instance, we now have female councillors, members of parliament, magistrates etc.
Radio programmes have also been used in addressing girls’ issues through awareness campaigns that encourage girls to speak out when they are harassed either physically, sexually or any form of abuse. Community meetings conducted by local leaders have played a significant role in harnessing girls’ issues, it is in these platforms where girls air out their views, concerns, grievances and suggesting solutions to solve these problems.
Social media has played a pivotal role as a platform to address girls’ issues. The use of hashtags on Twitter, YouTube videos, Facebook and blogs has been influential in addressing girls’ issues. Twitter has immensely changed the voice of the girls and has given pressure to governments to act in preventing any abuse of young women and girls. In South Africa there was a hashtag that went viral and was adopted globally that is #GirlsLivesMatter after the brutal killings and raping of girls. The pressure that was amounting from social media made the law enforcers to react and put the perpetrators behind bars.
In the same light, please welcome our new baby that also seeks to uplift and empower young women by amplifying their voices. This very magazine is part of the Amplifying Girls’ Voices Through Digital Arts project. A platform that is addressing girls’ everyday life issues through the use of various media platforms like online magazine, podcasts and videos. This is to help in the creation of safe spaces for young women on and offline. To have stories straight from young women’s hearts to your eyes and ears, the world as we see and idealise it. The project will tackle various issues from as many angles as possible in a bid to arrive at what works best for the collective and individuals. The centuries old repression of women and their rights cannot be undone overnight, hence the need for as many complimentary platforms that address these issues.
Dear girls, stay vocal and stay safe!