The Sunday News
Debra Matabvu, Harare Bureau
FIRST Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has launched the “First Lady and the girl child” interface programme and will meet young girls and women in the coming months as she steps up her drive to end early childhood marriages.
Addressing about 500 girls and young women — ranging from Grade 6 to tertiary level — at the inaugural interface at Belvedere Technical Teachers College in Harare yesterday, the First Lady said the scourge of early childhood marriages is preventing girls from realising their full potential.
The interface — held under the theme “Our girl, our pride, our future, let’s invest in her” — also creates a platform to fight teenage pregnancies, drug abuse and sexual immorality.
“We are faced with a problem of child marriages, whereby another child is having a child herself. Most children are failing to finish school because of early childhood marriages. There are statistics which show that this is a problem that we have in all our 10 provinces.
“We all have different and at times difficult backgrounds, but you have to strive to be someone in life.
“You will be called someone through your hard work, perseverance and self-respect. I am pained by what is happening these days, where girls are going to bars, strip naked and dance, in what is called strip tease. There is also rampant drug abuse by girls even at growth points, where girls are drinking alcohol and taking drugs. I am really concerned about all this . . . You have to get your education first, then you will make a choice on whom you would want to marry.”
Through the platform, girls will also be given an opportunity to speak out about their challenges.
Yesterday’s inaugural interface was attended by primary and secondary students from Harare, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East provinces, while tertiary students were drawn from the University of Zimbabwe, Harare Institute of Technology, Harare Polytechnic College, Morgan Zintech Teachers’ College, Seke Teachers’ College and Belvedere Technical Teachers’ College.
The First Lady will soon meet with young girls and women in Midlands, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South. She will also embark on province to province interface in a bid to reach out to all the girls in the country.
However, plans are also underway to meet the boy child on a different platform modelled along the same theme. Some of the topics discussed at the interface included sexual reproductive health, early childhood marriages, confidence grooming, etiquette and personal hygiene.
The platform also touched on issues such as entrepreneurship, careers, entertainment, digital and social media. Companies that manufacture reusable sanitary pads were also implored to approach the First Lady’s Office.
“We have heard the challenges that are being faced by some of the young girls who cannot afford to access sanitary pads and they end up missing school when they are menstruating,” she added.
“So I am calling on those companies that manufacture reusable pads to approach my office so that we can map a way forward and rectify the situation. We will also rope in the Ministry of Health and Child Care so that they help with their expertise.”
Addressing the same gathering, The Sunday Mail Editor Mrs Victoria Ruzvidzo urged young girls to use digital and social media wisely.
“Social media is a very good and noble platform. It has brought us together in the world, help us communicate and help form critical minds for the young people,” she said.
“However, it can also be very dangerous if it is not used wisely. There are people that have committed suicide because of social media,” she said.
The programme is the First Lady’s initiative to improve the life and welfare of the girl child. The interface was attended by representatives from the ministries of Primary and Secondary Education; Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development; Health and Child Care; Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare; Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development; and Sport, Arts and Culture.