THE Non-Governmental Gender Organisations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) has noted with concern the increasing number of girls dropping out of school due to pregnancies.
Executive director Engwase Mwale said the reported 106 schoolgirls, among them a 13-year-old grade three pupil, who have fallen pregnant in a space of three months in Chadiza district of Eastern Province makes sad reading.
Mwale said the high number of teenage pregnancies that had been recorded in Eastern Province this year alone points to a deepening problem not only in that province but in society as a whole.
“Clearly the disruption of information accessibility and complementary actions around social norms and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights during the partial lockdown as a result of the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened poverty and gender inequalities,” she said.
Mwale said Zambia was now experiencing the symbolic telling that the pandemic was putting tremendous strain on young women and girls by virtue of them having stepped into the crisis from a position of vulnerability.
She said teenage pregnancies and child marriages were already a challenge in pre-COVID-19 era and still remains at the core of the pandemic going by the increasing numbers of young women and girls at risk.
“NGOCC is concerned with this development as cases of teenage pregnancies may continue on the upswing throughout the country,” she said. “It is a fact that teenage pregnancies undermine girls’ human rights and compromise their opportunity to fully realise their socio-economic development potential.”
Mwale said as an organisation, such revelations were disheartening because most adolescent girls drop out of school when they are pregnant, which negatively impact their future aspirations because they grow up with limited career options and opportunities.
She said it was also a fact that engaging in unprotected sex also puts the young people especially girls at higher risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections, including HIV.
“As NGOCC, we urge government, cooperating partners and other stakeholders to adequately resource and in a more collaborative manner, fast-track public sensitisation and awareness raising interventions around Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights,” Mwale said. “Specifically, our call is for interventions that will target girls and boys on the negative effects of teenage pregnancies, and the need for young people, especially girls, to value education.”
She said it was NGOCC’s expectation that this shall receive urgent and specific attention as an integral part of accelerating efforts aimed at mitigating implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let us all recognize that women and girls belong in all places and during any crisis they are the most hit as they seek to balance individual safety and ensuring livelihoods and adequate nutrition,” said Mwale. “Hence women and girls’ issues are national issues which call for economic policies that zero in on addressing gender inequalities by being refocused towards stronger, equitable, inclusive and sustainable growth.”