“My voice, our equal future” lets seize the opportunity to reimagine a better world inspired by adolescent girls

Justice for Children (JCT) joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child.  This year the day comes when the world is struggling to contain the novel corona virus. COVID-19 has changed the context in which children live. Quarantine measures such as school closures and restrictions on movements’ have disrupted children’s routine and social support,  at the same time placing additional stressors on parents and caregivers who have had to find new childcare options or forgo work.  Cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) have been on the rise as families struggle with anxiety, economic stress and living in close proximity to one another with many victims being trapped with their abusers. Even more worrisome is the increase in the number of GBV cases against adolescent girls.

Gender Based Violence is phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, GBV is a serious concern in Zimbabwe as it is in the rest of the world.  According to UNICEF at least 1 in every 3 women (15-49) have experienced physical violence (35%) while 1 in every 5 women (17%) have experienced sexual violence.   Other harmful practices such as child and early forced marriages, which constitute a serious violation of sexual reproductive and health rights of girls in Zimbabwe, leading to higher rates of early pregnancy and increased risks of exposure to HIV/AIDS and high maternal mortality. Gender based violence undermines the safety, dignity and overall health status, social and economic wellbeing of individuals who experience it.  Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 (MICS) indicates that while adolescence carries new health risks for both girls and boys, girls often face gender-specific vulnerabilities, with lifelong consequences. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death worldwide for adolescent girl’s age 15 to 19.

Justice for Children acknowledges efforts by Government, civil society, traditional leaders, faith leaders and communities at large towards the fight against gender based violence and harmful cultural practices.   In addition JCT applauds the progressive Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides a strong framework for protection and promotion of the rights of children. The Constitution recognises the equality of all persons and goes further to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sex. Furthermore through the parent Ministry responsible for women’s affairs, gender equality is promoted across all platforms.  Despite the progress strides and laws in place, implementation and translation of the laws into tangible gains for girls remains a challenge. Several pieces of legislation pertaining to child protection are still to be aligned to the Constitution.  Furthermore it has been noted that adolescents face barriers to appropriate sexual and reproductive health services, despite the known onset of adolescence which brings not only changes to their bodies but new vulnerabilities to human right abuses, particularly in the arenas of sexuality. Young girls are often coerced into unwanted sex or marriage putting them at risk of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, sexually transmitted infections and yet young people face barriers to reproductive health information and services needed to protect their health.

Justice for Children (JCT) stands with GIRLS from all walks of life in demanding action. We say don’t just amplify their voices, HEAR their voices, LISTEN to what girls have to say, take ACTION.   See their POTENTIAL, give girl’s EQUAL opportunities, and PROTECT them from Gender Based Violence, Harmful Cultural Practices and Child Labour.   These actions should not be just confined to one day, girl’s rights and girl’s voices are important every day of the year.

As we commemorate the International Day of the Girl, Justice for Children JCT continues to advocate for children’s rights. In the same spirit of championing for children’s rights JCT encourages the girl child to speak out, let the world hear your voices through the impact you make.

“My voice, our equal future”