COVID-19 destroys lives of girls from poor families

By Nigel Hove

Suku Ncube (17) wakes up early morning and walks 2 kilometres to the nearest borehole to fetch water for her in-laws. She struggles to ferry the 20litre bucket on her head as her one year old baby whines on her back.

Young girls who get married are often trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty

She failed to complete her high school education after failing to get the examination fees for her O’ level education as her self employed father had to stay at home because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“My future instantaneously turned bleak the moment my father stopped going to sell his wares in the city (Bulawayo). Our family, here in Tsholotsho, had to use the little money we had budgeted for my exam fees to feed ourselves during the Corona virus lockdowns,” says Suku.

Suku is one of many girls globally who were forced to watch their dreams wither with the wind after the COVID-19 pandemic, which worsened poverty and food insecurity, forced them out of the classroom and into the kitchen.

Through the Keeping girls in the picture campaign, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), reported that an estimated 11million girls and young women were at risk of dropping out of school because of COVID-19.

In the report, UNESCO says many young girls dropping out “not only threatens decades of progress made towards gender equality, but also puts girls around the world at risk of adolescent pregnancy, early and forced marriage, and violence”

Young women and girls like Suku globally have been forced to shift focus away from their dreams and forward finding good husbands which has resulted in a climax of teenage pregnancies.

“I wanted nothing more than to be a soldier. Since I was a young girl I have wanted to wear that camouflage uniform” says a smiling Suku.

She adds that her mother coerced her to find a good husband who will take care of her and she says she complied with the advice.

“My mother said it would be better for me to get a good husband who will take care of me and that’s how I was introduced to Thando’s father, he is an illegal cross border trader commonly referred to as Omalayitsha,”

In another report titled, Are Children Really Learning?, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), pointed out that absence of the wraparound social support schools provided where children could discuss and navigate issues they face at home put many children to harm of being victimized, especially girls.

Suku says her life have been irreversibly destroyed and all her dreams have vanished right before her eyes.

Creative Centre for Communication and Development, Zimbabwe

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