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COVID-19 Aftershocks Drive Adolescent Pregnancy

More than 19 pupils ranging from 15 to 18 years of age got pregnant during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in Dete. Image by Leah Rodriguez | Global Citizen

BY RUTENDO MAPFUMO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | OCT 26, 2020

The past months have forced school going children to be at home due to the closure of schools. For young teenage girls, the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed a lot more in their lives than a missed school year.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Six months after their lives were stuck in the COVID-19 induced lockdown, a number of pupils from Lupote Secondary School in Dete have become expecting mothers, a situation which has left the community's leaders concerned.
Statistics gathered by the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe Hwange Chapter reveal that more than 19 pupils ranging from 15 to 18 years of age got pregnant during the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in Dete.

Sekani Shoko (not her real name) a form three pupil at Lupote Secondary School says her parents told her that the economic situation had made it difficult for them to continue paying her school fees.

“My father told me that he will not pay my school fees for my secondary education. He told me that I should start looking for work and get married to sustain the family.”
Sekani Shoko, form three pupil

Sekani says she was willing to further her education but her father decided to consider paying school fees for her brother, a form two leaner.

Her predicament is also being faced by a number of girls of her age in the district, primarily due to the economic hardships induced by the impact of COVID-19.

Catherine Madondo the chairperson of the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe Hwange Chapter says economic hardships coupled with redundancy amongst adolescents during the COVID -19 nationwide lockdown has played a major role in teenage pregnancy in this part of the district.

“The teenagers had nothing to do hence indulging in sexual activities, most of these girls may be victims of ignorance leading to teenage pregnancy,” says Madondo.

“In most instances, these girls were lured by men who promised them food and money. The financial constraints which resulted from the travel restrictions and loss of livelihoods forced most young girls in rural Hwange to fall into the trap of teenage pregnancy,” she says.

Despite increasing international recognition that the education of girls is one of the most powerful tools for progress, girls in rural communities suffer when it comes to getting  education and whenever there is an economic meltdown.

“Educating girls, in particular, paves the way for wider changes in families, societies and workplaces. Educated girls are more likely to have better income, marry later, and have fewer and healthier children and stronger decision-making power within the household. They are also more likely to ensure that their own children are educated,” she says.

According to Lloyd Dembure the SAFAIDS programmes officer, the economic challenge has led to the increase of teenage pregnancies and early marriages in Hwange’s rural communities.

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“We have tracked a number of cases in Hwange rural where minors are being impregnated by older people,” he says.

Buwalo Mutiliko Trust (BMT), an NGO which deals with sexual and reproductive health among the youths says teenage pregnancy in rural areas is becoming serious and most of the cases are linked to the hunger for economic support.

“The courts, police and the hospitals are flooded with such cases. As BMT we track all such cases in communities and advocate for justice to be served,” says Anna Mandizha Ncube, director of BMT.

According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, 12.5 percent of the country’s roughly 57,500 school dropouts stopped attending classes due to pregnancy or marriage – almost all of them were girls.  

Zimbabwe has made strides in attempts to mainstream gender issues in all sectors in order to eliminate economic, social and cultural practices that impede equality and equity of sexes, however the pandemic has negatively impacted some of these gains.

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