By Lindsay Chiswe
Plan International Zimbabwe on Wednesday 11 October 2017 Joined the rest of the world in celebrating The International Day of the Girl Child (IDG) at a colourful function held in the capital city at Copacabana Taxi Rank.
Rejoiced under the theme “Unlocking Girls Potential Now” the celebrations started with a dialogue on issues affecting girls in the city. The panel included transport operators, police force and students from various schools in Harare.
Issues raised in the dialogue included sexual harassment of girls in the form of physical assaults, degrading comments from commuter omnibus conductors and rank marshals, poorly maintained and unsafe recreational facilities in communities, i.e. : swimming pools, shortage and lack of gender sensitive and properly trained police officers at police stations who can assist girls who are physical challenged , lack of proper non-specialized health care clinics services and health information for the girl child, the unfairness in opportunities in education among other issues.
William Mutero, Interim Country Director for Plan International Zimbabwe said that this year’s theme, “Unlocking Girls Potential Now” a theme which has come from their previous work with this day, which was instituted in 2012, came as a result “because we feel we can no longer wait, girls can no longer wait, we need to give them the platform and opportunity to unlock their potential because we know they have a lot of potential but they do not find the same opportunities as everyone else” he said.
The event which was attended by Harare City Council, Government officials, police force, Harare City Junior Councillors, students from various schools and the general public was officially opened by the Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province Honourable Miriam Chikukwa.
The guest of honour Mrs Chikukwa said that the International Day of the Girl Child was significant in that it recognises the importance of women. “This day is special to us in that it values us as women, because traditionally, girls were only viewed as good at child bearing only”. As the Resident Minister for Harare, I am challenging everyone here present to make an effort to look after the girls in society. Though it is the day of the girl child, even boys need to be looked after as they face same problems of sexual harassment as girls too. To all the girls, I am urging all the girls to value this day and uphold the Ubuntu concept not forgetting the way we dress.
The Minister of State for Harare Provincial Metropolitan, and Girls takeover 2017 made a commitment to supporting girls and women in public spaces by ensuring public spaces and streets are free from sexual harassment gender based violence through working with the law enforcement agencies.
Mr Mutero, went on to say that this year’s theme resonates well with the work being done by Plan International Zimbabwe around safer cities for girls, safe spaces for girls and this is why the campaign was done at Copacabana. “We want girls as they travel through the city, as they engage in everything they do, we want them to feel safe, we do not want girls to be called names, harassed at taxi ranks, attacked, we do not want girls to be victims because they are girls. We want free open spaces for girls, where they feel safe, hence we invited city authorities, city fathers, law enforcement agencies, resident Minister to try and come up together and see the ways in which we can explore and make the city safer for girls” he said.
The crowd was kept entertained by Radio Zimbabwe who came on board to celebrate the day of the girl child through live broadcast.
Throughout the year, Plan International Zimbabwe, has been calling for the provision of free sanitary wear for vulnerable school going girls as a way of restoring their dignity and keeping them in school. The issue of sanitary wear has made girls not to participate adequately in education, in social activities because they are marginalized to that extent that If they don’t have access to sanitary wear it makes them unacceptable to be at a public space, hence it limits their ability to participate fully in key issues affecting them.
There is need to influence and advocate at policy level because development partners like Plan International Zimbabwe might not be able to get the reach that the government and local authorities have, hence government and private partnership are key in addressing the issue of sanitary wear for all girls.
Commenting on the free distribution of sanitary wear, Mrs Chikukwa encouraged the girls to empower themselves by making reusable pads. As government, we are looking into the free distribution of pads, but I challenge you girls to make reusable sanitary wear, which you can make for resale at the same time gaining extra income” she said.
The function ended with the installation of a billboard at Copacabana with a message encouraging citizens not to harass women and girls.
International day of the girl child is celebrated annually on the 11th of October to highlight issues concerning the gender inequality, address the needs and challenges girls face while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.