Namibian girls get to know their rightsBy: ADAM HARTMAN
TEENAGE pregnancy, baby dumping, dropping out of school, violence, sexual assault of girls, and child labour ... These are all issues that adolescent girls in Namibia have to face daily, regardless of legislation to protect their rights.
About 150 schoolchildren (mostly girls) from all 13 regions attended the opening of the three-day “Girl Child Conference” in Swakopmund on Heroes’ Day, when the theme was “Celebrating and Cementing the Rights of Girls”. This is the first time such a conference was held in Namibia.
Cecyllia Amuela, of Windhoek’s Junior Town Council, said the problems girls faced could not be addressed by Government if it did not involve the children – the ones directly affected.
She said children’s knowledge of their rights and obligations was a crucial factor in addressing these problems, and hailed the conference, hosted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (GECW), as an excellent platform to ensure children’s rights were understood and enforced.
Swakopmund Mayor Germina Shitaleni read the Minister of GECW, Marlene Mungunda’s keynote address. Mungunda was in the north commemorating Heroes’ Day.
According to Mungunda, girls are one of the priorities of the 12 critical areas of concern in Government’s National Gender Policy.
She said 2007 statistics showed an alarming number of girls dropping out of school due to teenage pregnancy, HIV-AIDS, early traditional marriages, poverty and sexual abuse.
The statistics showed that teenage pregnancy was the biggest contributor to the high rate of school drop-outs with 24 per cent in Okavango, and 21 per cent in Ohangwena.
“The occurence of teenage pregnancies is still a grave concern in the country and there are few programmes to support pregnant pupils,” she said.
Sexual abuse of girls by male pupils, teachers and other male adults also contributed to school drop-outs, as well as to teenage pregnancies and HIV infections.
“These factors have negative consequences on the health, emotions and general performance of girls at school,” said the Minister.
Girls also continue to face challenges from their childhood into their adulthood, with negative social-cultural attitudes, according to the Mungunda.
“Discrimination against girls, therefore, does not only reinforce gender inequalities but also undermines their integrity and self-esteem,” she said.