The Covid 19 pandemic has wreaked unprecedented havoc in Zimbabwe especially on teenage girls.
The extent of vulnerability to this pandemic varies with age and gender among other things (Dhliwayo, 2020).
In conjunction with this, the UNFPA Covid-19 report titled Gender Lens promulgates that disease outbreak affects women and men differently. As such, the challenges usually associated with teenage girls have been socially, physically and psychologically exacerbated by the eminence of Covid 19.
According to UNICEF (2020) on GBV risks to adolescence, the pandemic risks not only reversing progress made in increasing equitable access to education but also leads to increased incidents of teenage pregnancy and early\forced marriage in the country.
Adolescents have remained sexually active thus divulging the preconditions necessary to avert the spread of Coronavirus and thus become the riskiest group to Covid 19 and teenage pregnancy.
Many teenage girls have fallen pregnant during the lockdown period and most of these teenage pregnant girls are of school-going age (Tapera, 2020).
Thus the coming of lockdown measures brought social strain as there were limited coping strategies to enhance a living during the lockdown period, thus subjecting them to low esteem, extreme poverty levels and other coping strategies such as sex commercialization (Davison, 2020). This has made them susceptible to more dangers of sexually transmitted infections and to those who have contracted HIV\AIDS already, there is a high risk for double infection and wilful spread of these sexually transmitted diseases.
Considering all this, it is clear that the coming of the coronavirus has snowballing consequences for teenage pregnant girls. Worse-still, the capabilities of these teenage pregnant girls to properly cater for themselves is curtailed by lack of resources to start their own project as well as lack of counselling.
Moreover, many teenage pregnant girls are prone to the usual problems of stigma, lack of schooling, and livelihood insecurity. According to the World Vision report (2020) on Covid-19 aftershocks, poverty-stricken parents may turn to exploitative means of reducing the burden on household finances or supplementing it. In summation, Covid 19 brought a long-standing problem to teenage girls since even girls who are now going back to school are also at risk of sexual exploitation and being impregnated by their peers and even teachers in order to afford extraneous costs of their education caused by the Coronavirus. Being in such a vulnerable situation also, unfortunately, leaves the teens as easy gender-based violence victims.
Why I’m playing a part – why I’m joining the campaign
I am a woman. My femininity is my pride, my armour and my identity. I do not wish to have this part of me be a reason for discrimination or be the reason why I should suffer abuse and victimisation.
I am a daughter, a sister, a friend. I wish to see the plight of my fellow women-folk respected. We need to have a system whereby we express opinions free from fear of victimisation.
I would like to have frank discussions which condemn gender based violence across all social strata. I would like these conversations to happen with the men and between the men. I would like it to become taboo to have men dating underage girls. I would like society to start to ostracise the men who impregnate underage girls instead of the girls themselves.
I am inspired by the conversations with women who have experienced GBV and have moved on and become activists and awareness champions.
I am inspired by the teens who still have hope that they can turn their lives around and become independent women after life has dealt the hard blows. I am motivated by the teens who at times are not aware of what they can achieve after having been victims.
I am aware of the dynamics which exist in our communities which, more often than not, work against these teen moms and I want to play my part in the campaign.
How I a playing my part
I have embarked on an ambitious project that addresses the psychological and social consequences of teenage pregnancy through interventions targeting teenage girls combined with interventions focusing on their social environment. Several studies and reviews suggest a comprehensive, community-based, and socio-ecological approach.
I am committed to a comprehensive, socio-ecological approach that focuses on relevant intrapersonal, interpersonal, community, organisational, national, and global levels of influence and interaction and moves beyond change of individual behavior. It recognises and addresses the structural contexts which shape and limit people’s agency and therefore ability to act.
I proudly do this with partners who share the same empowerment vision and recognition that self-empowerment is a crucial step to ending tolerance of gender-based violence.