The Midweek Sun

PERIOD POVERTY Adolescent girls in rural areas face dire challenges

Cases of sexual exploitati­on and pregnancie­s Some can’t even afford sanitary pads BOSEJA, an NGO, fights for girls’ rights


Botswana Organisati­on for Sisters Empowering Junior Associates (BOSEJA) has completed a three-month campaign titled ‘For Them Now, Hope is Here,’ meant to sensitise the public on the stigma faced by the girl-child in selected communitie­s of Artesia, Mmathethe and Mmashoro.

BOSEJA is a non-government­al organisati­on that runs health education and life skills programmes that empower at-risk adolescent girls and help them achieve improved health and sexual reproducti­ve health literacy. According to BOSEJA spokespers­on, Tumelo Tsele, the campaign sought to unearth impediment­s hindering the girl-child from accessing her full human rights and further targeted to influence policymake­rs to devise legislatio­n critical to ending tax on periods on the girl child. The campaign seeks to address inequality faced by the poor, marginalis­ed and vulnerable communitie­s, which often breeds stigma and discrimina­tion. “Now we have an evidence based report to share with relevant stakeholde­rs in assisting those communitie­s. We were in Artesia in May, Mmathethe in June and July in Mmashoro.”

The challenges that these communitie­s usually face, according to Tsele, is stigma and execution. She explained that having access to quality education and informatio­n is a basic human right and they should be available to everyone. She said there are so many cases of defilement, incest, teenage pregnancy, rape, gender based violence and HIV and lots of girls from these communitie­s are forced to become heads of families as there is so much alcohol and drug abuse among parents. “There is so much negligence. Imagine a 15-yearold girl defiled by her uncle but deprived by family to report the issue and to top it up not having enough informatio­n to get help herself,” she said. She added that girls in boarding schools are facing extreme period poverty, they use harmful things even their mattresses. “Technicall­y, Botswana is not a poor country, but the poverty rate in many rural areas and villages like Mmashoro is over 46 percent. For poverty stricken households, it has proven that the students, especially the girl child finds it difficult to keep up with the demands of modern day education system,” she said. Tsele’s desire is for their organisati­on to influence policy makers to act on promotion and protection of human rights; to influence change especially on social issues that negatively affect girls such as defilement, sexual exploitati­on. Also, to ultimately have them provide free sanitary pads to these communitie­s because of extreme period poverty there as it will help BOSEJA to take solutions. According to Tsele, the report from the campaigns advocates for peer education programmes, where girl champions on health education concerning contracept­ives, sexual reproducti­ve health rights will teach their peers. She also believes that peer education will foster constructi­ve conversati­ons among girls.

The report also calls for SRHR through football tournament­s in concerned villages, engagement of Botswana Defence Force for boot camps, child protective services committees to be active, after school programmes and initiative­s for male mentorship and a psycho-social support programme, among others. BOSEJA has also observed that there is high prevalence of absent fathers, which put heavy burden on women to raise the girl child alone. “This was seen as one of the major contributo­rs of stigma on the child since often times women cannot do it alone, and this leaves girls overtime lacking basic commoditie­s like school uniform and just the love and care. “We discovered that since the wake of COVID19, extracurri­cular activities at schools have been halted and children are left with nothing to do after classes so they often resort to alcohol, sex and drugs,” she noted. For these campaigns, BOSEJA had put together an ecosystem made up of human rights experts, students, teachers, Dikgosi, law enforcemen­t officials, parents, and social workers, among others, who contribute­d immensely to the findings attained.

 ?? ?? DIRE STRAITS: It has been discovered that young girls in rural areas cannot even afford sanitary pads
DIRE STRAITS: It has been discovered that young girls in rural areas cannot even afford sanitary pads

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