CHIPINGE – Covid19 lockdown has in just two months (January to February 2021) left an alarming 4 959 underage girls pregnant countrywide with 1 174 of them getting into child marriages, a Women’s Action Group (WAG) workshop held in Chipinge on Thursday last week was told.
These girls now face problems including unsafe abortions, Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and loss of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), said WAG Programs Officer Maria Chiwera.
She called for an intervention into the situation of the girls by strengthening the termination of pregnancy framework in order to effectively deal with SGBV and promote sexual reproductive health rights for women and girls in Zimbabwe.
The intervention will see better access to SGBV services by girls and women. Legal termination of pregnancies will also be more readily available.
Chiwera was speaking at a workshop where delegates commemorated the International Women’s Day. The workshop which was supported by UNICEF was attended by around 40 people and was held at the town council recreational park.
In July 2020, 45 percent of 653 cases of violence against children reported through the Child Helpline involved GBV against girls. Physical abuse was the most frequent reported form of abuse constituting 28 percent of the reported cases followed by sexual abuse at 26 percent (OCHA,2020 b).
Covid19 caused a spike in teen pregnancies because children spent most of their time at home with nothing to do.
The belated commemorations were held under the theme; Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid 19 world.
Sexual Gender Based Violence refers to any act, attempt or threat of a sexual nature that result , or is likely to result in physical, psychological and emotional harm and the fear is that the girls will be affected by such. Sexual Reproductive Health Rights is the state of complete physical, mental and social well being in all matters relating to the reproductive system.
Chiwera said International Women’s day commemorations are a key activity in raising awareness on SGBV, SRHR and Termination of Pregnancies (ToP).
Women’s Action Group is a non- governmental organisation (NGO) which operates at both national and district levels with a mission to develop products and tools of unlocking women’s and girls’ power to claim and enjoy their rights in violence free and rights conscious communities. The purpose of the organization is to champion women’s rights in Zimbabwe.
A study by Guttmacher Institute in 2016 revealed that a quarter of unwanted pregnancies ended up in abortion.
“A national adolescents fertility study of 2016 revealed that 16% of maternal mortality was due to unsafe abortion and half of which occurred among adolescents. The current Covid 19 lockdown measures have seen GBV cases increasing by 75 percent compared to the pre-lockdown period, according to a research by Msasa Project,” said chiwera.
She said that the intervention will be through multi-sectorial response system engaging service providers in the community and survivors of SGBV.
Chipinge District Development Officer Gabriel Jaji (Ministry of Women Affairs) said the Constitution promoted gender equality.