UNITED Nations (UN) Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, His Excellency Mr Edward Kallon has called out the increasing incidence in sexual abuse and impregnating of minor girls as harmful practice that should be uprooted of the Zimbabwe society as a matter of urgency.
By Michael Gwarisa
Speaking during a Press Briefing on 16 Days of Activism against GBV, Mr Kallon said child marriages, child sexual abuse and all of abuse of young girls was slowing down progress in attaining
Despite progress made in promoting and protecting of the rights of women, girls and children, there have been increasing reports of child and adolescent pregnancies and child marriages. When girls become pregnant or married off early, their prospects diminish, and they become more vulnerable to poverty and exclusion. More robust efforts to protect children from such violations should be strengthened at all levels of society in line with Zimbabwe’s Constitution and laws on children’s rights. Perpetrators should be held accountable,” said Mr Kallon.
He added that there was need for collaboration between various stakeholders to bring to an end the growing abuse of girls.
“In view of these circumstances, let me share some perspectives that our collective voices including the media in Zimbabwe can make a difference on: First, having men and boys on board as champions. Leading by example for men and boys to become agents of change for the achievement of gender equality. As such, we have to continuously use our voice and influence to harness human solidarity to end violence against women and girls in all forms.
“Second, the media amplifying the collective voices of Government, stakeholders, and the society at large to ensure women and girls receive universal sexual and reproductive health services. In addition, we should continue to advocate for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence to receive timely and integrated medical, legal, and psychosocial services. This can be done through advocating for the scaling up of ongoing innovative approaches such as the “one stop centre” initiative opened in some parts of the country under the joint UN-EU Spotlight initiative. I have seen these one-stop centres and are effective way of supporting survivors.
Third, advocating for the urgency to end child marriages. Statistics, in this regard, show that in Zimbabwe: 33% of girls are married before the age of 18 while for men it is 2%. We should redouble our efforts to support national and local efforts to end child marriages.
“Fourth, calling for equal access to quality education and skills development. I cannot overemphasize the importance of having better education opportunities for girls especially in secondary and tertiary education. Data also shows that the level of education and wealth has an impact on first marriage: When girls have no education, their average marriage age is 17.8 years, whereas when girls have more than a secondary education, their average age at marriage is 23.4 years.
“Fifth, working towards drawing women into the economic mainstream. The consequence of decline in women’s relative or absolute economic status has both ethical and long-term economic implications. In the long run, the low economic status of women would translate into slow national economic growth and development.”
Sixth, advocate for increased participation of women in governance and political decision making at all levels including holding elective offices on a 50-50 representation as the country gears towards the harmonised election in 2023. Women have proven time and again to be great leaders and powerful agents of transformation. In spite of this, they face many obstacles in reaching leadership positions in government, civil society, and the private sector.
Finally, the bottom line is one of social justice and fair play. Equal access to resources, dignity, and respect in the political arena which a society must demand and its leaders must demonstrate, a culture of tolerance for diversity and difference – these are some of the fundamental values and principles that will engage and entice more women to leadership and decision-making positions.”
He concluded by saying that gender equality and women’s empowerment are key to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as development can never be effective or sustainable as long as gender inequality, discrimination and violence continue to affect a large and productive sector of society who happen to be WOMEN and GIRLS.
As society, we shall, no longer be bystanders to an unjust and unequal society for women and girls.