Plan International launches girl campaign

HARARE - Plan International yesterday launched the “Because I am a girl” campaign during the inaugural UN declared International Day of the Girl Child.

The day, which was set aside by the UN General Assembly last year following a two year campaign by Plan International and other child rights organisations, seeks to promote girls’ rights.

The “Because I am a girl” campaign, which was commemorated in 400 places across the globe, seeks to highlight gender inequalities that still exist between boys and girls.

Plan International deputy director Hazel Nyathi said the aim of the campaign was to highlight gender inequalities, discrimination and abuse girls suffer.

She told delegates attending the launch ceremony that empowering the girl child is akin to empowering the nation.

Nyathi, who did not mince her words on the role of education in combating poverty, said her organisation had several programmes aimed at empowering girls especially in the schools.

“We started the ‘‘learn without fear campaign’’ in schools because of violence in schools and communities. Schools should be a sanctuary for all,” Nyathi said.

She added that many girls failed to access their right to education because families continued to show preference to educate the boy child.

Nyathi spoke passionately about how teenage girls were more likely to experience sexual violence in the school set up and in communities.

“At adolescence, vulnerability has increased in girls compared to their male counterparts,” Nyathi said.
Most girls in the family set up are required to do most of the household chores while their male counterparts have more time to play and study.

This practice, which is prevalent in most families, contradicts the Education Act of 1987 which states that all children should access education and remain in schools, complete their education cycle and achieve in their endeavours.

But most girls fail to continue with their education because of a number of issues; poverty being key. Some are forced into early marriages to provide financial security to their families while some are sexually abused and fall pregnant.

Permanent secretary in the ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and and Culture Constance Chigwamba said one of the ministry’s strategies was to ensure gender parity at secondary school level where most girls drop out.

Chigwamba said analysis of last year’s Grade 7 results showed that 69 191 girls passed the exam against 58 125 boys.

The figures however, begin to dwindle at high school and tertiary education level when girls are in their adolescence.

“At ‘O’ Level the percentage pass rate for girls was 20,7 percent while that of boys was 23,92 percent. While boys had better results than girls, the difference may not be too significant,” she said.

“The percentage pass rate for girls at “A” level in 2011 was 90,66 percent while that of boys stood at 89,28 percent. From the results above, it may be concluded that girls are performing generally better than boys,” Chigwamba said.

She added that her ministry had also introduced safety nets like Basic Education Assistance Model (BEAM) to assist under privileged learners.

Chigwamba’s ministry will also undertake the second-chance education programme which seeks to enrol girls who would have dropped out of school or fallen pregnant.

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