INTEGRATING girls and boys Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) issues could go a long way in ensuring gender equality and tolerance, a Hope for Adolescents and Youth Zimbabwe official has said.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an interview with HealthTimes on the sidelines of the ongoing SRHR workshop, Hope Zimbabwe Vice Board Chair, Mrs Ratidzai Ndlovu said leaving boys behind in the quest to achieve gender equality was tantamount to “shooting ourselves in the foot.”
“Girls have a lot of disadvantages because of the gender issues, this is why we incorporate gender justice in our programing. Many a times, a girl is made to drop out of school while her male siblings proceed with studies and that destroys the future of the girl. So we feel that we can do a lot and our program means a lot to try a get the girl child to come to the same level with the boys.
“However, we are not leaving out the boys, that’s why you see even at this workshop we have both sexes represented. This is because sometimes, boys suffer quietly, so we need to dig into all those issues,” said Mrs Ndlovu.
She added that Zimbabwe would find it difficult to win the gender battle as long as the focus is only on the girl child or women rights.
“Personally, I believe that we won’t win the battle if we are just dealing with the girl child. We have to deal with the girl child and the boy child, the same with the adult community.
“Why, because you need the boy child to respect the girl child, to appreciate their needs they have to work together because if they don’t, they will carry that into adulthood and issues of gender based violence will erupt.”
Zimbabwe is still grappling with high levels of abuse towards the girl child with the biggest challenge being early child marriages, rape or sexual abuse. However, Mr Ndlovu indicated that even boys can be raped or sexually abused but society has socialised them to keep it all inside hence the high levels of depression, stress and suicide amongst males.
Meanwhile, speaking to Brandon (17) one of the young people who attended the SRHR workshop, he highlighted that he had learnt much in terms of relating with those of the opposite sex and more work needed to be done to educate the boy child regards issues affecting girls so to appreciate them.
“This week has been eye opening, people from various areas of expertise cam to teach us on issues ranging from entrepnreurship, peer pressure, menstrual health, HIV among others.
“We were also taught how we can respond to peer pressure. The issues of gender also came into play, now we can relate to our female counterparts without bullying them or those kind of bad things.”
Hazel Handoh (20) who also participated in the workshop said the issue of menstrual hygiene was cause for concern amongst young girls and urged them to embrace new means of managing menstrual health such as The Butterfly Cup, reusable sanitary pads and towels.
“The topic of sanitary health was of huge benefit during this workshop. The issue of sanitary pads is also an issue among girls as some from vulnerable communities cannot afford to buy the pads.
“There are a number of choices girls could choose from just to manage their monthly periods,” said Handoh.
According to statistics gathered by Child Rights based organisation, Childline Zimbabwe, a total 14 000 cases of child abuse over were recorded in the country and 30 percent of the cases were sexually related.