Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) is pleased to join the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child which falls on 11th October. This international commemoration gives us the opportunity to reflect on our achievements and shortcomings in addressing the challenges that girls are facing in realizing their right to education.
The theme for this year is “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our well-being”. Investment in girls and women spurs productivity and economic growth in any given society. Girls and women’s participation in education and leadership positions is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 in Zambia. Moreover, women and girls represent more than half of the country’s population and therefore their full participation in the economy can increase our development prospects. For instance, Girls have the right to safety, education, and a healthy life, not only during these critical formative years but also as they mature into women.
If adequately supported, girls have the potential to change the world – both as empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and corporate and political leaders. An investment in realizing the power of girls can help uphold their rights today and offer promises for a more equitable and prosperous future. Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 SGDs. Education is a key investment in girls because it is also an enabler of other rights such as the right to participation.
Although we are pleased that there are more girls that enroll in Grade 1 compared to boys, we are concerned that girls start dropping out at a fast rate from Grade 4. According to the 2020 Education Statistical Bulletin produced by the Ministry of Education, we have 105,700 girls who are out of school in Zambia as a result of the high drop-out rate. Additionally, 16,491 girls got pregnant, and only 7,954 were readmitted representing 48.4% readmission rate. Child marriages due to bad cultural practices in rural parts of the country also contribute to high numbers of girls dropping out of school.
It is clear from the statistics above that more needs to be done by the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders to keep our girl children in school. Therefore, Zambia needs to safeguard the rights of the girls and their well-being by mitigating vices such as teenage pregnancies and early marriages that deprive girls of their education opportunity. We also appeal to the government to ensure that all progressive gender legislations and policies are fully implemented such as the Children’s Code Act No 12 of 2022, Gender Equity and Equality Act No. 22 of 2015, National Gender Policy, the Anti Gender-Based Violence Act No. 1 of 2011, and Re-entry Policy among others.
Finally, we wish all our girls a happy and successful 2023 International Day of the Girl Child.