Marriage is not a Career Option for adolescent girls in school
Child and early marriages is a challenge that is being faced by adolescent girls and young women worldwide. A report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) says that globally, more than one in four girls are married as children – before the age of 18. In the East and Southern African region, the share of girls married before 18 is 36%, while 10% of girls in the region are married by age 15.Zimbabwe is no exception with statistics from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) noting that 33.7% of girls aged under 18 are married. This is one in three girls under 18.
Child marriage reduces the likelihood that girls will complete their secondary education. Many child brides do not return to school after marriages and marriage often means early and frequent pregnancies, which lead to school dropouts or girls being excluded. Furthermore, lack of education limits girls’ and women’s options to improve their circumstances economically and make better choices in life. Moreso, having babies too young causes serious health issues. Pregnancy and childbirth complications are among the leading causes of death in girls aged 15 to 19.
Faced with the above challenge, more often than not we hear of career guidance in schools and these are usually urban schools compared to rural schools. With unlimited guidance and counselling concerning their careers, children especially adolescent girls in rural and peri urban communities such as Makoni district remain vulnerable as they are not capacitated to make informed choices on the best career pathway to take. Statistics notes that many girls choose to get married due to different circumstances and challenges such as poverty but lived realities have also proved that ,early and child marriages are also the birth of so many social and health challenges as noted above.
In a vein to raise awareness on the above noted challenges around early marriages as well as to redirect girls not to have marriage as a career option, the district of Makoni through the coordination of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education resorted to organise a career guidance for children in schools under Makoni district on the 12th of October. The event ran under the theme Career First, No to Early Marriages and a clear mantra that Marriage is not a Career. The event was hosted at Mt Camel High School in Makoni. Unlimited Hope Alliance, together with different government ministries and other civic society organizations working in the district actively participated and ensured that leaners from the district got adequate information concerning available career options as well as other issues that affects their development such as menstrual health management as well as drug abuse issues.
Information by Unlimited Hope Alliance on this day was a call for all children especially adolescent girls to refrain from relationships that leads to early marriages. The boys were also encouraged to desist from activities such as drug abuse that triggers negative behaviours including sexual behaviours that may lead to unplanned sex and unplanned pregnancies that heavily impact on their fellow sisters. The Makoni community as a whole was also alerted and discouraged on this practice that negatively impacts on the girl child especially their right to education.
The Career guidance was a great initiative which managed to take children through different choices that they can make in life. The main purpose of the career guidance was for learners to make educational, training and occupational choices. To manage their careers and move from a general understanding of life and work to a specific understanding of the realistic learning and work options that are open to them. Children in Makoni district schools were engaged on choices they have including staying in school and avoid early marriages with the motto of the day being ‘marriage is not a career’ .The day ended with all the children highly motivated about their future and had a clear understanding of themselves and how they might live and work when they leave school.
Further empowerment information to the girls present was on menstrual health management. At the end of it all, Unlimited Hope Alliance distributed to the girls a total of 600 sanitary kits. With the availability of funds, Unlimited Hope Alliance wishes to curb the challenges on availability and affordability of sanitary wear in Makoni district through supporting women and girls in Makoni district to produce and sell reusable sanitary wear. To date Unlimited Hope Alliance have distributed more than 3500 sanitary pads to girls in the district and wish to make another great stride by ensuring that the initiative is sustainable by ensuring that the community makes the pads to meet the demand and at the same time make a living out of it from the little profit.