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your girl did it mama

Going to school was a given for me since my mother knew the value of education. It was difficult seeing children my age stay at home and then getting married without qualifications. I had always been told to get qualified then marry so that if I faced problems in marriage I would fall back on education. My journey still was not easy, from primary to university, the hurdles were many and it took courage to succeed. Challenges threatened me at every corner and I would have given up had my mother not been stubborn and insisted that education came first no matter what.

In grade 7 my teachers were strict about correct disposal of sanitary wear. It sounds easy but there were difficulties associated with it. The incinerator was in one toilet in the middle of the school. Entering that toilet meant you were menstruating and you became the object of ridicule. Though we learnt about menstruation, it only increased the stigma. Unsurprisingly, menstruating girls were secretive and didn’t use this facility, wrongly depositing their used sanitary.
During one incident we were called and asked to lower our pants for inspection. I never forgot it because it was embarrassing and the guilty girl did not come to school for days and at times some never returned. Instead of support, the environment was hostile. In rural areas girls use newspapers or cloths, the lack of ablution facilities and sanitary wear leads to high dropout rates as self-esteem and confidence is brought down by this natural process.

In high school, my body began changing. I was ridiculed because of my looks. Inappropriate and derogatory comments were passed everywhere especially by male teachers who pass subtle comments that are difficult to report but makes girls uncomfortable. I fought one boy because of this and the teacher told me I did not know my place.

During university girls become more vulnerable to physical and emotional abuse by lecturers and peers. One lecturer courted girls he taught. We were all afraid because there was always the danger of failing a module if you reported him. Worst, was you could not report without facing discrimination, so the harassment was never reported.

School authorities harass children who have not paid fees and they end up playing truancy. Schools must be safe and welcoming, but many girls in Zimbabwe fail to attend school due to the hostile environments. Bullying destroys girls and it is the subtle forms of bullying that leave the worst scars. My friend’s parents died from AIDS and the reaction of classmates was horrifying. She was the subject of scorn, school became unbearable and she dropped out.

Many girls do not have access to education because of household labour. They do chores before going to school and if they can’t finish they miss school. The effort can become too much that they just stop going altogether.
Poverty forces girls to drop out of school. The economic environment in Zimbabwe has led a lot of girls to drop out of school and venture into vending and domestic work. There is no motivation to stay in school. They are able to make money in the informal sector but it makes them vulnerable.

Educating girls should include parents’ awareness, especially mothers, on the importance of education as many uneducated women do not send their daughters to school. Informal education at home plays an integral part in educating girls: especially building life skills like decision making and assertiveness which cannot be learnt academically. If girls understand the impact of education on their lives they are more likely to make better decisions, avoid early marriages and face challenges without compromising their education. They are less vulnerable to external shocks and persevere no matter what life throws at them.

Authorities need to focus on making schools child-friendly. I have introduced a lesson every week for my pupils on human rights and life skills to empower girls. The long-time spend in school helps girls mature, they make wise life decisions. In relationships educated women are empowered and respected by their partners. They can leave abusive relationships and empower their children.

The support I received from my mother’s family helped me succeed. When my mother died she had just sat for promotion exams and passed. My uncle handed my sister and I my mother’s certificate and challenged us to go to school to get our own certificates. Years later, I am the proud holder of a bachelor degree and a master’s degree. I am now looking forward to starting my PHD. Many girls in my community do not have anyone to support them especially orphans but there are two choices in life accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility of changing them (Dennis Waitley) and break barriers.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

Debra K Adams MA's picture

beautiful!

YOU definitely know your place - please continue to disregard the men who would challenge your authority to protect yourself! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

I can understand why girls are embarassed by their menstruation cycles, but it is the most natural evolution of human life and it could and should be celebrated and honored - all children should know this. The most important duty a parent has is to educate their children , even if it is not formally done - we teach children how to talk, to walk, to use toilet facilities - we are always teaching!

Congratulations on your achievements!

"Be the change you want in the world." Gandhi

Debra K. Adams, MA
See my vizify bio! https://www.vizify.com/debra-k-adams-ma-pdv-cws
Survivors In Service: Self Empowerment Strategies (SiSSeS)
Consultant/Speaker/Author & Owner/Founder

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

thank you for the encouragement. parents no longer have time to teach children anything and its sad but true many children fumble through life finding their way blindly. I have started building ideas around coming up with an initiative to talk to girls and women offer counselling etc. any ideas on how I can go about this will be welcome. I am going to plough back what my mother afforded me to have to those who are not as fortunate. I have realised that in urban Zimbabwe education for both boys and girls is taken seriously but in farms , mines and rural areas there are still challenges
regards
pela

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

William's picture

Girls education

Dear sister, thank you for your article about girls education and it's importance. Obviously you were an exception to the issue of the benefit of educating daughters and I am thankful for your opportunity. May I suggest that somehow you spend some of your time working with parents, men especially, to encourage them to send their daughters to school also--a payback for what you have been given? I also encourage you to tell girls about World Pulse. Blessings on you and your family.

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

thank you for the encouragement. I have already started plans to set up an org to deal with girls issues i.e menstruation and education and women. I hope to give back especially because my mother was a giving woman.the opportunities I have had many have never as orphans. my uncle is still prepared to finance my education so that my children can have a better life. we need a change of culture and im glad in some parts of Zimbabwe we now have such men who are prepared to send daughters to school so the husband can respect her and also she is free to live a bad marriage.
thank you for your encouragement I will continuously update you on my developments. keep the advice rolling in
regards pela

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

William's picture

girls education

Dear Pela, I understand about how bad things are in Zimbabwe, so be careful. Things will change, a little at a time, with wonderful people like yourself working steadily toward gender equality. Blessings.

Pela- You obviously have an excellent ability for writing, interconnecting personal story with community and solutions, including taking action. This topic is not often discussed in such detail, and yet seems a huge barrier to girls' education! It is heartbreaking to know that such demeaning harassment takes place in, yes, what should be a safe environment. At all levels!

I wonder if you can take what empowerment you already provide to your students to a wider audience. It looks like you already have plans in the works for that.

Another note, there are so many stories of empowering mothers, including my own, that need to be heard. I hope to be begin that project in the very near future. All the best!

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

pelamutunzi's picture

thank you

im honored to hear you appreciate my work. yes i have plans to take the empowerment wider. my thirst cannot be quenched until every toungue has had a drop and things change. please do begin your stories cant wait to hear them as a daughter of a great mother. further advice will be appreciated
regards
pela

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

I love the title of your piece, Pela. How beautiful to recognize that your mother being "stubborn" and insisting that education came first "no matter what," was a great gift that still moves you.

You do an excellent job of describing the barriers to education for girls. And at the same time, your mother's intention continues in your life. What lucky students to have you for their teacher! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Lorraine Cook

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