In most districts of Zimbabwe, a lot of girls have dropped out of school with some married off at early age and others turning to commercial sex work to eke a living.
This is mostly because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has worsened pre-existing inequalities. The vulnerability of young girls in particular, has been highlighted repeatedly and the need to protect them from sexual exploitation is urgent.
A recent report by the Zimbabwean government suggests that nearly 5,000 teenage girls became pregnant between January and February 2021 with an additional 1,800 forced into early marriages. Human rights activists blame these figures largely on poverty and the early COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
The story of sixteen-year-old Twalumba (not her real name) from Binga province is one example. Since schools reopened, Twalumba has not returned to school, instead, she is now her family’s breadwinner. With both of her parents sick, Twalumba is forced to look after herself and her parents by engaging in sexual activities.