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11 October is international day of the girl child. The 2018 theme is With Her: A Skilled Girl Force. Expanding existing learning opportunities and preparing girls adequately to enter the work force should be a priority of SADC Member States. The SADC Gender Protocol states that State Parties shall implement legislative and other measures to eliminate all practices, which negatively affect the fundamental rights of women, men, girls and boys, such as their right to life, health, dignity, education and physical integrity. Member States are to develop strategies to prevent and eliminate all harmful social and cultural practices, such as child marriage, forced marriage, teenage pregnancies, slavery and female genital mutilation. State Parties shall take special measures to increase the number of girls taking up Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and ICT at the secondary, tertiary and higher levels.
The girl child continues to face limited opportunities due to deeply entrenched patriarchy in the SADC region. The region has been advocating for girls to take up Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects in order to participate in the science and engineering professions in future.
Access to sexual reproductive health services by girls is hampered negative attitudes from health care professionals and dual legal systems. Some of the challenges facing girls in SADC include teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections including HIV and AIDS, unsafe abortions, child marriage, vulnerability to sex and child labour trafficking and lack of access to sexual reproductive health and rights information services.
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