Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world Wednesday in launching the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence indications that women and girls living with disabilities are more vulnerable to this violence.
On the other hand, rural girls say they are on the receiving end as they are being forced into early marriages by their struggling families.
Many have dropped out of school since their parents cannot afford basics such as sanitary pads.
Around the world, 246 million children experience gender‐based violence at or on their way to school every year, according to a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Activists say gender‐based violence in schools and at home is happening in every country in the world right now.
It is a global phenomenon preventing children, especially girls, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups from accessing a safe, inclusive and quality education.
And as Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, young rural girls say they have another problem stopping them from going to school – the shortage of sanitary wear that they want to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
At a recent event to commemorate the girl child at Lions’ Den in Mashonaland West, Pamuhacha, a group looking into issues affecting the girl child, called on girls to start using home-made re-usable sanitary pads to avert their problem.
The mostly rural girls, who attended the event, welcomed the introduction of re-usable pads that they said are cost effective.
They said their parents cannot afford to buy sanitary pads for use during their monthly periods hence missing school had become a norm for the majority of them.
Roseline Mamvura of Alaska says she now uses the re-usable pads that save money and are hygienic.
Mamvura said, “Pamuhacha does a lot of activities so as to empower a girl child. They do train the girl child to make re-usable pads that can use up to a year because as girl children we find it very difficult to buy pads monthly.”
Deline Maponga from Murereka district in the province praised girl child programs saying they are empowering young girls to fight off gender-based violence, adding they also enlighten them about their rights.
She said, “(These programs play a key role) In terms of empowering the girl child to know that in the society they are being recognized as respected human beings as compared to the past years in which girls were not even heard like myself I’m an orphan. I did not have the confidence to stand in front of people until the coming of girl child empowering programs.”
Pamuhacha director, Precious Nyamukondiwa, noted that the organization decided to start producing re-usable sanitary pads after realizing that most girls were using unhygienic materials like newspapers for their menstruation periods with some being forced into illicit relationships to access such basic things.
Nyamukondiwa said, “They use flannel and fleece to make washable sanitary pads you know periods of menstruation days are a traumatic time for most girls because they don’t have anything to use so we teach them that if they don’t have a dollar to buy sanitary pads … we teach them to make their own washable sanitary pads because they are hygienic, they wash it, dry it in the sun and re-use it over and over again”
A Makonde police woman, who did not want to be named because she is not authorized to speak with the media, said there is an upsurge of cases of child abuse, gender based-violence, rape of juveniles and early marriages of the girl child – challenges she said could be tied to poverty currently affecting many families in the country.
“Cases of domestic violence, rape of juveniles and having sexual intercourse with girls under the age of 16 years have also become prevalent in Murereka policing area.”
Various organizations working with women and girls who attended the commemorations said they will be advocating for stiffer sentences for rapists and perpetrators of gender violence during the 16 days of activism which starts today.
The 16 days of activism is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world, they said.
The 16 days campaign begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) and ends on International Human Rights Day (December 10) and emphasizes that gender-based violence in its many forms is a human rights violation.