At a time when Zimbabwe is reeling from the effects of COVID-19, rural girls have found themselves being forced into early marriages, child labour or sexual exploitation to help make ends meet.
However, Hilda*, 16, is proving there is another way.
Money worries exacerbated by COVID-19
She is one of the thousands of girls across the country who are struggling to make enough money to get by. Incomes in Zimbabwe’s informal economy have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought restrictive measures like lockdowns that are introduced to reduce the spread of the virus.
For a girl who was left in the custody of her grandmother after her parents divorced and remarried, Hilda’s options have always been limited. Her grandmother is a subsistence farmer struggling to make ends meet to support her family financially. As an adolescent, Hilda’s health and education put a financial strain on her grandmother.
“There are things that my grandparents could not afford to provide for me such as enrolling in extra lessons, stationery and school uniforms,” she says.
Extra earning potential
There are things that my grandparents could not afford to provide for me such as enrolling in extra lessons, stationery and school uniforms.
The form 3 student’s life took a bright turn when she was selected to participate in an economic empowerment programme as part of Plan International Zimbabwe’s 18+ project.
As a result, she received 25 chicks and poultry feed in May 2021. Hilda has successfully reared the chickens, sold their produce and is making enough profits to enrol in extra lessons.
She says, “I am now able to pay for these through my poultry keeping project.”
Her dream is to become a nurse and that has spurred her to work extra hard in mathematics and science.
Reducing rates of child marriage
Hilda’s grandmother says, “This will keep a lot of girls from falling into child marriage because they will be occupied and self-reliant. I am grateful that my granddaughter was selected. I see hope in her future because of this.”
Hilda is also a member of a youth club as part of the 18+ programme from Plan International Zimbabwe. It is aimed at strengthening civil society in reducing rates of early marriages through various initiatives. The programme is working with both in and out-of-school girls.
*Name changed to protect identity.