Tanzania: Rights Groups Want Court to Lift Ban on Teen Mothers' Education

23 November 2020

Regional women rights advocates want the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights to lift Tanzania's ban on learning and school re-entry of teen mothers and pregnant girls.

Equality Now, a women rights organisation with global and regional offices and other Tanzania based women rights advocates on November 19, jointly filed the policy overturn case at the Arusha based Court.

They argue that "preventing pregnant girls and adolescent mothers from attending public school denies them access to education and keeps many trapped in a cycle of poverty."

"It also exposes them to additional human rights violations including child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and sexual and labour exploitation," the advocates said in a statement released on November 19.

Girls' rights

Data from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provides that one in four Tanzanian girls aged 15-19 is either pregnant or has given birth.

Equality Now Africa region Director Ms Faiza Mohamed said the African Court is the last resort to restoring the girls' rights to education as their three-year advocacy since 2017 has borne no fruits.

"We are hopeful that the voices of these girls - many of whom are victims of sexual violence or coercion-will finally be heard," she said.

Tanzania's policy of expelling pregnant girls from primary and secondary school dates back to 1961, but the practice has escalated in the past five years because of public endorsement by senior government officials, the advocates say.

President Magufuli

On the June 23, 2017 in an article Tanzanian leader reaffirms ban on pregnant girls attending State schools Tanzanian President John Magufuli is quoted saying: "In my administration, as long as I am president ... no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school. We cannot allow this immoral behaviour to permeate our primary and secondary schools ... never."

In 2013, Centre for Reproductive Rights, a global women's rights organisation, reported that in the past decade, roughly 55,000 Tanzanian pregnant schoolgirls had been sent away from school.

Mr Magufuli's reinforcement of the discriminatory regulations drew criticisms from global women rights organsations. These, however, did not cause a shift to his stand.

"Gender equality and creation of a more just and equitable world for girls cannot be achieved without ensuring all girls have access education," the advocates said.

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