Today is the International Day of the Girl Child, commemorated every year on October 11 since 2012. It is the observance day declared by the United Nations and this year the day is being commemorated under the theme “Empowering the girl child for a better tomorrow.”
The MDC today salutes the girl child and the tribulations she has overcome. We believe strongly that empowering the girl child is empowering the whole nation as no nation can develop without involving women since they are equal stakeholders in sustainable development.
The Assembly of Women has observed that the Zimbabwean society is still patriarchal to the extent that girls and boys are treated differently according to gender roles that have been socially constructed be it in the homes, schools churches and even work-places. The girl child in most cases is still expected to play the role of performing household chores like cooking, washing, fetching water and firewood whilst the boy child is playing soccer or reading his books.
Child marriage cases continue to rise because of religious beliefs and famine. It is against this background that the MDC Assembly of Women sees it fit to commemorate this day so as to take stock of what the government has done so far in protecting the girl child from the vagaries of cultural and religious norms.
We note with concern the continued abuse of the girl child in tertiary colleges by selfish old men and lecturers. They are abused and sexually harassed in return for higher marks or financial support. All this happens despite the fact that Zimbabwe is a signatory to regional and International Conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the UN Millennium Development Goals (SDGs) which targets the equality of girls and boys in attaining education.
As the Assembly of Women we feel that the issue of sexual rights is not being adequately addressed as cases of gender based violence continue to rise. The Ministry of Health is not doing enough in equipping the girls and the general population on their sexual rights.
We have noted with concern that as the economic crisis bites in the country, the girl child remains vulnerable to commercial sex work. Of great concern remains the continued rise in prices of basic commodities which are now unaffordable to many. Three steady meals per day are now a thing of the past as life has become unbearable to many citizens, particularly the vulnerable girl child. Sanitary pads are no longer affordable and have become a luxury to many family budgets yet they must be at the top of the priority list. Tree barks, old clothes and newspapers which are hazardous to health are now being used as pads.
While providing condoms for free by the government is good, we feel the government must equally be providing free sanitary pads for the girl child. In fact, it would be a positive step towards creating a healthy, safe environment as well as dignity for the girl child.
The Women’s Assembly demands that the Zimbabwe Government looks into issues affecting the girl child, acknowledges and addresses them as a matter of urgency. We are worried by the government’s misplaced priorities at the expense of the citizens. It must be able to protect and promote the rights of the girl child and those of its citizens by listening to the cries of its people.
We call upon all sectors to support the efforts of the girl child in every sphere in order to build a better Zimbabwe as the future lies in the hands of the girl child.
MDC Assembly of Women proudly and boldly asserts that: Educate a Girl Child, Educate a Nation.
Barbara Tanyanyiwa – Spokesperson
MDC Women’s Assembly