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COVID-19 has worsened inequalities girl children experience: Amnesty International

Image: Reuters

[File photo] A school nurse measures the temperature of children that arrive for the first day of school, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak September 14, 2020.

South Africa has shown progress in the implementation of the rights of girl children but in many parts of the world girl child are denied their right to education. International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated annually on October the 11th to draw attention to these, and other challenges that girls face.

Chairperson for Amnesty International Durban, Coral Vinsen, says the global COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the inequalities and injustices that girl children experience.

“Girls are generally in lots of countries. They don’t go to school. They don’t have the education that their brothers have and so they are disadvantaged and of course, when they become mothers they are illiterate. They are not able to give their children the best education or understand why education is so important. In South Africa, if we look at what’s happening to the girl child when the schools are closed, the extent of rape has gone up exponentially.”

Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga has said that teenage pregnancy has become a national crisis in South Africa.

The Gauteng Department of Health released a statement saying 23 000 girls under the age of 18 gave birth between April 2020 and March 2021. 934 of the girls were younger than 14. It said 14 577 girls under the age of 19 gave birth during the same period the previous year.

Motshekga said the alarming rate of teenage pregnancy is not only a problem in Gauteng, but is a national problem that needs urgent action.

“The Department of Basic Education and stakeholders, we commit ourselves to intensify the implementation of the comprehensive sexuality education program which aims to empower young people with age-appropriate information. We will need once again to mobilize our communities and stakeholders to unite against this scourge. The time has come to bury our differences with the religious sector, the traditional leadership, and parents who had not read the material but were hoodwinked into disinformation around the programs that we’re successfully running with other parents.”

DISCUSSION | Shocking numbers of teenage pregnancies in Gauteng:

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