Thursday, December 2, 2021
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‘Sexual violence major driver of teenage pregnancies, maternal deaths’

Kimberly Kusauka

Sexual violence is one of the major reasons teenage girls get into childbearing, which is responsible for most maternal deaths recorded among the youthful generation during the Covid-19 era.
The observation was made by pressure groups representing women interests during a steering meeting recently hosted by Zimbabwe Association of Church Related Hospitals (ZACH) at Chevron Hotel in Masvingo.
ZACH Programme Officer Vincent Chaeruka said they have embarked on the Start Awareness Support Action (SASA) to address issues to do with Gender Based Violence (GBV), early child marriages and social injustice against girls and women.
“We have embarked on the SASA programme which we borrowed from Uganda to address GBV, early child marriages and social injustice against women and girls since they are the most vulnerable society which is patriarchal,” said Chaeruka.
He said they are holding steering meetings where they engage other stakeholders also fighting against GBV, discussing ways to assist young girls and women.
“We do not work alone but we have stakeholders who also advocate for girls and young women seeing to it that they get help whenever they are victimized and ensure they are protected,” said Chaeruka.
He said they have also engaged police’s Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) and lawyers to help the victims and also work with community members like religious leaders, adolescent girls and boys and men so that they are taught on the importance of girls and women.
“We have police’s VFU, lawyers and we also engage the community leaders such as religious leaders, adolescent boys and girls, young women and men so that everyone in society is aware of the importance of the girl child,” said Chaeruka.
ZACH Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Precious Kahungwa said during lockdown when cases of GBV increased, their organization carried out door-to-door sessions in communities carrying out dialogues with everyone in areas where there would be such cases.
“During lockdown we noticed a rise in GBV cases and our teams were on the ground moving from door to door engaging everyone in the fight against girls and women violation and managed to help 11 595 people from January up to date,” said Kahungwa. She said they are offering counseling, family planning services and legal services to survivors through the engagements with the SASA champions who are readily available in communities.
“We are offering counseling, family planning services and legal services to survivors through our champions who are on the ground in the communities. Our champions also include the media and anyone who advocates for women’s rights,” said Kahungwa.
Adult Rape Clinic nurse Locadia Marinyame said they are sheltering girls who have been through SGBV from 12-15 years where they are offered post rape services like pregnancy testing, psychological counseling and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) screening and emergency contraception.
“We are sheltering victims of such cases at our one stop center at Nemamwa where we help the young girls would have been victimized with post rape services and make sure that they are treated of STIs and we started operating end of June this year,” said Marinyame.
She said they offer transport fares to victims who visit the center depending on where they travel from and they work with the media in holding road show campaigns as a way of communicating with society they help.
“We are working with media organizations as a way of sending a message to the community that we are there to help,” said Marinyame.
Girls and Women Empowerment Network (GWEN) Trust Director, Kumbirayi Kahiya said they hold awareness campaigns against sexual violence on girls and engaging them in sporting activities especially during lockdown as a way of occupying them so that they do not end up indulging in sexual activities.
“We do awareness campaigns and sports for girls and we recently incorporated boys so that they get a safe platform for learning and sharing their life experiences and we give counselling to those facing challenges at their homes,” said Kahiya.
Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) Marketing Officer Herbert Chikosi said they provide contraceptives and sexual education to young adolescents who fall pregnant.
“We provide contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education to pregnant adolescence girls and create an enabling environment for them to access contraceptives in youth friendly clinics,” said Chikosi.
He said they offer Antenatal Care (ANC) services which enable early identification of pregnancy related risks and complications; and ensure access of services including health education, vaccines, diagnostic tests and treatments to pregnant adolescence girls.
“We offer ANC services to pregnant adolescence girls as a way of preventing maternal deaths since there is a stigma around contraception ultimately resulting in maternal deaths because adolescence girls will not be mature enough and are biologically challenged to give birth without any hindrance,” said Chikosi.
Shamwari Yemwanasikana Advocacy and Influence Officer Rudo Gwanyata said marternal cases in adolescence girls has increased but they are teaching girls on Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) so that they reduce chances of getting pregnant at an earlier age.
“Adolescence girls are dying while giving birth however girls come through and we teach them on SRH that is how to use condoms so that they avoid getting pregnant at an earlier age.
“We also give them condom, sanitary wear and counselling as part of awareness campaign,” said Gwanyata.
Specialists have concluded that making contraceptives available, increasing awareness on safe sex and abstinence is the available solution to the dilemma of teenage pregnancies. There is a need to make sure that these teenagers have access to information on sexual and reproductive health at their disposal so they can make informed decisions.

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