LNGB, bold move to empower girl child

HARARE - Thousands of girls’ prospects are severely limited because they cannot finish school. According to the United Nations, some 33 million children in sub-Saharan Africa were out of school.

While statistics for Zimbabwe are not immediately available, pervasive poverty and persistent cultural attitudes, including forced early marriages and child labour, continue to be the main obstacles to girls’ education in Zimbabwe. Other obstacles include the cost of education, child prostitution, early pregnancies and long distances to schools.

But poverty lies at the heart of many of the challenges that hinder girls’ access to education. The pressures of poverty mean that parents must constantly make decisions about how to utilise extremely limited resources and how best to provide a secure future for their family.

Poor families, mostly in rural areas, are forced to send boys to school while keeping the girls at home helping with chores in the belief that chores are sufficient lessons for girls to learn how to keep a family.

Even as more girls are enrolled in primary schools, their chances of dropping out continue to be greater than boys’. Girls may be withdrawn from school by parents for reasons linked not only to costs but to unwanted pregnancies from rape.

That is why the drive launched by the British Embassy in Harare to keep girls in schools is a timely intervention.

The embassy has partnered with Plan International in launching the “Leave No Girl Behind (LNGB)” programme which is set to benefit over 21 000 girls in marginalised communities around the country.

According to the embassy, the Leave No Girl Behind programme will enable the most marginalised girls to continue their schooling and transition on to secondary education.

The programme will target 21 780 hard-to-reach girls aged between 10 and 19 years old, up to 6 percent of whom are living with disabilities.

This drive, which will no doubt increase enrolments and narrow the gender gap, is a welcome intervention. We definitely need more girls to enrol in secondary school.

As they say, educate a girl and you will change the world.

Educated girls grow into women who are empowered to care for themselves, their families, and their communities. And indeed, when you invest in a girl, the dividends are immeasurable.

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