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Girls under siege

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NAWASHA—We cannot afford to give up on a child’s education

Girls across the country continue being sexually abused as schools remain closed in the face of Covid-19.

A report from Thyolo District Social Welfare Office indicates that the district has recorded over 100 percent spikes in child marriages, teenage pregnancies and sexual harassment cases for the period between March and June this year compared to the same period last year.

The report indicates that 2085 girls have fallen pregnant, up from 970 last year while 743 girls have married, up from 257.

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The report also says that 470 girls have been sexually abused compared to 191 who were abused in the same period last year.

Thyolo District Social Welfare Officer Derick Mwenda has described the figures as shocking.

“That is what is on the ground. We verified the statistics with relevant stakeholders such as hospitals. We are trying to engage other stakeholders to see how we can deal with the situation,” he said.

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In Machinga, another 800 girls have either married or fallen pregnant in the past few months when schools have been closed.

Machinga District Commissioner Rosemary Nawasha said at least 461 girls have fallen pregnant while 329 others have married.

“Our healthcare workers are screening and providing necessary support to the returnees at the TTC apart from providing support to the people already here in various health facilities, and then we also have to deal with rising cases of teenage pregnancies and rescue girls from marriages brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Nawasha said.

This comes after over 7,000 girls some as young as 10 years were also reported pregnant in Machinga between January and June this year.

Speaking to The Daily Times in an earlier interview, Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati said government will be arresting parents whose children fall pregnant or get married.

“Everyone has a responsibility of protecting girls from the abuse. Government, civil society organisations and you the media and more so parents have to protect the girls. If parents do not fulfil their responsibilities, we will be arresting them” she said.

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