Project fights to protect girls from abuse

A $100,000 two-year project funded by the USA’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was launched in Harare last Thursday. The project aims to raise awareness about gender-based violence among young people in the Midlands province.

“The programme will empower girls to negotiate their rights and protection.” – Nyaradzo Mashayamombe.
“The programme will empower girls to negotiate their rights and protection.” – Nyaradzo Mashayamombe.

A local girls’ rights advocacy group, Tag A Life International, will carry out the campaign at 300 schools, training 160 community peer educators in the four districts of the province.

Around 500 children and teachers at each school will be organised into voluntary clubs, equipped to learn and explore issues using poetry and drama.

The executive director and founder of TaLI, Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, told The Zimbabwean that boys would also be involved in learning about gender issues, since some of them were blamed for violating girls’ rights. “The programme will empower girls to negotiate their rights and protection,” Mashaya-mombe said.

She said the children would be provided with psychological support and advised about where to report gender-based violence, and parents and guardians would participate in the project.

She expressed concern at what she described as reluctance to arrest perpetrators of abuse.

A similar project – Making the World a Safe Place for the Girl Children – was launched in Shurugwi last month by the NGO and 72 schools out of the 96 in the district have since been reached. The organisation trained 40 community members to be peer educators.

Shurugwi was targeted first because the district has a high level of early marriages and other forms of child abuse.

Following the project launch, Mashaya-mombe said: “Children, teachers and parents opened up and were reporting cases of girl child abuses.” TaLI, aims to spread the campaign to all parts of Zimbabwe within the next ten years and eventually turn itself into a global movement.

Mashayamombe was motivated by her own life experiences into founding the organisation. When she reported a teacher to the head of her school for making advances towards her, no action was taken, she said. She also pointed to the special treatment given to boys in many families.

“In most cases, boys get the school fees and uniforms ahead of girls, resulting in the girls dropping out of school,” she said.

Karen Kelley, counsellor for public affairs at the US embassy, said they were excited to partner TaLI in the Midlands project since the NGO had a proven track record of bringing together all parts of a community to address the issues of young girls.

“We have realised that the lack of access by girls to information and other resources can be a significant impediment in addressing gender-based violence,” Kelley said.

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