Southern Africa: Fighting girls’ right to education

Southern Africa: Fighting girls’ right to education

Date: September 9, 2014
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Johannesburg, 29 May: Access to education remains one of the rights that majority of girls have been deprived of because of early pregnancies and marriage. Culture and poverty also limits women’s chances to access a decent education.

Idah Kamushinda, Town Councillor of Zvimba Rural District Council in Zimbwabwe, an activist at heart, saw the increasing number school girls drop outs in her ward because the majority of them got pregnant. She attributed this to accessibility because the school is far from the village. In addition, gilrs are abused by men and stop going to school because of stigmatisation.

Kamushinda presented this case study in the women’s rights category at the SADC Protocol@Work summit.

”I used to visit the schools in my ward and talk to the teachers and they told me that girls are abused by men because they stay alone,” explained Kamushinda.

She continued, “I was touched because the young girls want to get educated and their parents rent rooms for them so that they are closer to the schools. However, because of lack of parental care and attention, most of the girls do not finish school.”

Where there is a will there is a way!

Determined to end the number of girls dropping out because of pregnancy, Kamushinda donated US$5000 from here personal savings and raised another US$2000 from well-wishers.

In addition to raising US$7000, Kamushinda approached the Zimbabwe Alloy Smelting Company(ZIMASCO) to join hands in her efforts to find housing for the girls in Mtorashanga. After consultations the mining company decided to donate 16 boarding houses as part of its contribution to help students in the area.

Kamushinda said the boarding houses accommodate 43 male students and 19 girls from Mtorashanga High School. Education levels have changed for the better in her community were both female and male students enjoy a better learning environment.

Despite having a busy schedule the mother of four and grandmother to two children finds time to visit the school girls in the boarding schools and provide sexual reproductive health education.

“I visit the girls after every two weeks and talk to them about sexual reproductive health, I listen to their problems and what they have to say to me. This has helped the girls to have a firm stand and make the right choices,” explained Kamushinda.

Adding, “at first parents did not know what was happening to their children because their children lived in rooms they had rented for them near the school. When the girls got pregnant they were married off and treated as adults, but now the situation has changed. Parents are involved and concerned.”

Kamushinda told Gender Links that her efforts have also brought men, ZIMASCO and fellow councillors in her community to fight for equal educational opportunities.

“The ZIMASCO Mining Company which is a male dominated agreed to support this project and management agreed to donate these houses to the community as a plough back project,” she noted.

Adding that, “Perpetrators of GBV against female students are reported to the police. Other schools are making arrangements for pupil’s lodgings. This will not end at Mtorashanga High School; in the future we will go to other areas.”

Her selfless efforts have earned Kamushinda respect from her male colleagues at the council, but she maintains a humble attitude saying that anyone can play her part in helping advancing women’s rights despite their financial status.

“I felt that was the only way I can help female students, I do not have money but I can still play my part as a councillor and a responsible citizen,” said Kamushinda.

Mulemwa Thomas Mulemwa is a student at the University of Dar es Salaam. This article is part of the GL News Service special coverage of the SADC Gender Protocol Summit underway at Kopanong Hotel and Conference Centre in Johanesburg, South Africa, offering fresh views on everday news.

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