25 November 2012

Tanzania: War Against Gender-Based Violence Should Include Plight of School Girls


THE United Nations' 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence kick-starts today with vigorous campaigns to form a joint front aiming at stamping out the vice.

Throughout the world, the focus will be on respect for women's basic rights and gender equality. In Moshi, Kilimanjaro Region, 30 NGOs are teaming up to campaign actively during the 16 days, against wife battery and genital mutilation, two vices that are still common in the region.

According to ASP Grace Lyimo of the Regional Police anti-domestic violence desk, reported cases involving domestic violence have almost doubled, from 210 last year to 375 this year, a clear indication that a lot is yet to be done to help eradicate gender- based violence.

Launching the campaign in the northern zone yesterday in Moshi, the chairperson of the 30 NGOs' preparatory committee, Ms Honoratha Raymond warned that outdated cultural practices like wife beating and genital mutilation fuelled gender-based violence.

While we commend the UN for recognizing the plight of women and girls who are the real victims of gender-based violence, we also urge the front runners and key players in the campaigns to agitate for a permanent solution to the vicious problems facing women, including school girls.

Women, likewise girls, are vulnerable to such violence as beatings, rape, forced marriages, threats and the list is endless. Unfortunately, the trend has been to ignore the special needs for school girls. Schools are built, but no special consideration for poor girls many of whom struggle singlehandedly to make it to another stage in life, without proper protection and supervision.

In the ward schools for example, girls put up in rented rooms far away from home. Others walk long distances to and from school, which exposes them to disasters and catastrophes.

Who protects them against such violence as rape and threats? No one knows what is happening to these girls from morning to evening and January to December. The result, however, does not take years to be seen.

After one or two years, girls who have no known protection drop out of school due to unwanted pregnancies. Their future has been ruined and the nation loses, in terms of talents and women who would help steer it to prosperity.

Available data show that over 5,000 girls dropped out of school in the past one year or so for nothing else but pregnancies. The number could be even higher because some girls withdraw from school mysteriously after realizing that they are pregnant. Yet school pregnancies are not an epidemic.

This is only a problem that needs joint efforts and political will to eliminate, simple and easy. If the country decides to build dormitories for girls in a sustainable strategy that aims to free girls from constant harassment and unnecessary temptations, ours would definitely be a different society.

Let the coming 16 days be a time of deliberations on the right course of action to take for the benefit of women, but more so, for the school girls. It is not to late to start.

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