Her dream is to become a professional driver and be able to raise her family from that when she is a bit older. But at the moment her parents cannot afford to pay her school fees and she has been at her home in the farming community of Mazowe since 2017.
“I was about to lose hope,” narrated Sheila Katembwa (not real name), a 16 year old girl from Mazowe farming community as she attended the International Day of the Girl Child commemorations held in Glendale on Sunday the 11th of October 2020.
Sheila is among the 21 girls who graced the occasion, a number which was limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. The event was also done observing the existing COVID-19 guidelines of public gatherings.
She dropped out of school three years ago when her parents could no longer afford to send her to school while her brother who is currently doing grade 5 continued.
“Girls in my community are getting married because they have given up on life and marriages look like the only way out, but I do not want that for myself,” said Sheila.
“It is also a way of escaping poverty. At least that is what my peers think and before the dialogue we had today, I was convinced they were right even though that is not the route I want to take.”
Sheila, full of hope, is one the girls in Mazowe farming community where the Farming Community Education Trust (FACET) in partnership with the Students And Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) are carrying out a project whose vision is to end child marriages and challenge Sexual and Gender-Based Violence as strategies to promote and protect children`s rights in farming communities.
Mazowe is a farming and mining community with the majority of the families living in poverty. This has been mainly due to failure by resettled farmers to be as productive as the previous farmers who used to employ the bulk of the now struggling families.
As a means of escaping poverty, most girls are either getting into early marriages or getting impregnated by illegal miners who then leave them in pursuit of gold rush outside Mazowe district.
Some too have become a source of labour for families in Harare or Bindura, who turn to these farms for housemaids.
“This is what we are trying to end. We cannot have a 12 year old leave school and go to work for someone in Harare at that age. Simply put, this is child labour and its unacceptable if Zimbabwe is serious about gender equity and equality as is enshrined in the objectives of the constitution,” said FACET’s Project Coordinator Kudakwashe Muhlanga.
“Under our project, we will be paying school fees for girls like Sheila, and support them in every way we can to reduce child marriages and also ensuring that you girls and boys enjoy their right to education and health.
“Our girls deserve a platform where they can make their own choices, not forced into what they do not want because of circumstances,” she added.
This year’s International Day of the Girl Child was running under the theme, “My Voice, Our Equal Future” which sought to advocate for amplification of girls’ voices while creating a safe environment for girls to thrive.