Zimbabwe: Child President’s Call to Action – Addressing Adolescent Pregnancies in Zim

Gamuchirai Muzvondiwa, the child President of the Senate, is concerned that the rights of children are not being upheld. Teenage pregnancy should be taken seriously.

Muzvondiwa was speaking at A Call to Action, a Multi Sectoral Approach feedback meeting led by UNFPA in Harare recently.

It is imperative that adolescent pregnancies are addressed in Zimbabwe.

“The nation recently had a sad scenario where 14-year-old Yeukai was reported in H-Metro to have died a few days after being discharged from hospital. Yeukai had given birth through a C-section at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital. Yeukai was an orphan who grew up under the care of relatives in Murehwa. A 24-year-old nephew, Tatenda abused her for years. This was known by the family and even the community. No one came to Yeukai’s rescue. In fact, when she fell pregnant, the uncle and Yeukai were relocated to Glenwood in Harare to conceal the crime. Tatenda found part-time job as a loader in Harare,” Muzvondiwa renarrated the story.

“The families and community let Yeukai down. She leaves behind twins, what is the future for these innocent souls?” Muzvondiwa quizzed the house.

To the Glenwood community, the two were a couple. This shows how cruel families can be. The tragedy of being an orphan, raped and ‘traded off’ like a commodity is unbelievable.

“With the death of Yeukai, the two families were at loggerheads with the Dandara family demanding US$1 500 from the Zhanje family before burial,” said Muzvondiwa.

The newspaper reported that the compensation was reviewed downwards to one cow and seven goats.

Yeukai’s sad case aptly sums up the report and is only a tip of the iceberg.

The exposure of the heinous deed by the media led to the arrest of Tatenda, the rapist. The case is now before the courts of law.

There are more untold stories of unknown Yeukais’ in the communities.

In the plenary session, it was reported that some families and communities have resorted to remaining silent due to the aftermath of reporting.

“It is not that communities don’t care. They cited the long and exhaustive process in reporting to the police up to the courts.

Courts are not within the communities. One has to travel. It is costly. The police at times have no transport to ferry the complainants and witnesses. When one misses a court session, a warrant of arrest is issued, resulting in one getting arrested. Some cases are dropped for lack of evidence. As neighbours, life becomes unbearable,” said a participant.

Hence, some people turn a blind eye to crime that warrants reporting. This challenge must be addressed if the communities are expected to be cooperative,” bemoaned the participant.

The Centre for Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS

Research Zimbabwe (CeSHHAR) compiled the National Assessment on Adolescent Pregnancies in Zimbabwe, together Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare with support of UNICEF, UNESCO and UNFPA.

“The adolescent pregnancy rate in Zimbabwe is high. Nearly one in 10 adolescent girls gives birth every year. (MICS 2019).

About 50 percent of these pregnancies are unintended, and a quarter of them result in illegal and unsafe abortions. These backyard abortions increase the risk of child birth complications and maternal mortality

“One in four maternal deaths in Zimbabwe are adolescents or young women (representing 25 percent of maternal deaths in Zimbabwe).

“A key finding is that 21 percent of Antenatal Care bookings were among adolescents aged 10-19 years, translating to 358 458 pregnant adolescents from an estimated 1 706 946 bookings made in 1 560 health care facilities between 2019 and 2022,” the report noted.

“Furthermore, the study shows that 1 532 maternal deaths were recorded over the same period, with around 25 percent of them being among adolescent and young women under 24 years,” the National Assessment stated.

The findings are grave, and an end to such is a priority. Stakeholders, including line government ministries, civil society organisations, and funding partners, call for more investment to end this challenge.

The workshop brought together 120 participants from these key sectors who collectively deliberated and made recommendations on strategic interventions to inform the Integrated Framework.

It was agreed that the boy child needed to be in the same chapter with girls.

Education

  • Keep boys and girls in school and develop strategies for learning to continue even in humanitarian situations.
  • Scale up interventions to promote gender equality and address gender norms, roles, and relationships.

It was noted that traditional leaders as the custodians and gatekeepers of culture remain important. Communities listen to traditional leaders, and it is imperative that initiatives are made known to leadership.

Religious beliefs, too, are a drawback in some white garment sects with many minor girls ‘married off’. In most cases, punitive measures don’t work. Rather, continuous engagement pays off.

The Assessment showed that 93% of adolescents had a health facility assisted delivery.

Muzvondiwa speaks for and on behalf of unmet needs and rights for the children of Zimbabwe.

Rome was not built in a day, engagement and action will see a positive change.

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