Ivan Zhakata Herald Correspondent
HARARE South Member of Parliament Cde Tongai Mnangagwa has urged girls to report issues to do with child abuse and early child marriages timeously so as to avoid HIV infection and have law enforcers act in time.
This comes after reports that the number of new HIV infections amongst young women and adolescent girls has gone up during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a “Her Voice” workshop organised by Youth Engage in partnership with UNAIDS in Harare on Tuesday, Cde Mnangagwa encouraged young girls to report such matters early so that the police respond in time.
“We are working with Youth Engage to meet young girls and hear their needs whilst also encouraging them to protect themselves against abuse and early child marriages. We have seen that these young girls need different platforms to be taught on these issues.
“We are going to have more of these workshops to teach the girl child on how they can protect themselves. We are also going to another workshop for boys and another one where they will be mixed, teaching them on how best they can report issues affecting them,” he said.
Cde Mnangagwa said it was unfortunate that most cases of child marriages were not reported and they spread through hearsay after the damage has already been done.
He said he was worried that some relatives hide such issues as the father would be a breadwinner so they would avoid getting him arrested.
UNAIDS country director Ms Sophia Mukasa Monico said the number of new infections amongst girls had gone up and attributed the rise in new infections among young girls to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These days you cannot talk about HIV without talking about Covid-19 and because of that we need to increase the knowledge about HIV among adolescent girls and young women,” she said.
“We must also scale up mass information and communication around HIV. We sincerely believe that education is the vaccine for Aids and we want to make sure that every adolescent child and every young woman has the right information to ensure that they protect themselves from HIV and to access treatment in case they are infected because indeed quite a number got infected during the lockdowns.”
Youth Engage programmes officer Miss Clara Chinoruma said they were trying to create a safe space where young women and adolescent girls come together and deliberate on issues taking place in their communities.
“We want to make sure that we reach adolescent girls and young women in Zimbabwe to maximise their potential through their health and ensure that they get to protect themselves from high-risk infections such as HIV, STIs and also even their vulnerability such as sexual gender-based violence.”