900 Girls in Zimbabwe Speak Out
Betty Makoni, founder of the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe, a dynamic Global Fund grantee that works to end all forms of violence against girls and to promote education and leadership of girls, recently shared with us a declaration issued by Zimbabwean girls at a crucial conference. Over 900 girls attended the Girls Speak Out Conference. Given the rising incidence of HIV/AIDS and poverty, which jeopardize girls’ health and lives, they talked about, and then declared, what girls need from their society so that they can thrive.
Read the Declaration:
We, the participants at the Girls National HIV/AIDS Speak Out Conference. Being aware of the dangers posed by the continued spread of HIV to the well being of the girl child.
Taking cognizance of the efforts of all sectors of society from Government, NGOs and private individuals in trying to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the aforementioned girls.
Yet still recognizing that girls of the ages of the participants are among the most affected by HIV/AIDS, do make the following Declaration:
1. That the media be sensitive in its portrayal of HIV /AIDS issues especially where they concern girls.
2. The media should publish for all ages and not focus on adults. This also refers to the adverts carried in the media about HIV.
3. Home based care programmes should be strengthened and involve all sectors of society to allow girls space to attend school as they are spending a lot of school time taking care of relatives.
4. Programmes that fight discrimination and stigma must be strengthened, especially in school, and specific AIDS programmes must be introduced into the school curriculum and taught by specially qualified staff.
5. HIV education and awareness programmes on abuse should begin in Grade Zero to raise awareness of HIV and abuse from the earliest learning age.
6. There is need to increase awareness about other forms of transmission of HIV, not to focus on sexual transmission.
7. Children’s income generating programmes especially in school clubs be promoted and strengthened to allow children to gain financial capacity too care for the needs of fellow children infected and affected.
8. Programmes that benefit orphans and vulnerable children, especially those living with HIV should be scaled up.
9. Money allocated to HIV/AIDS programmes for children should be used transparently and be accounted for properly
10. All cases of rape and child abuse should be treated swiftly and equally without considering the position or influence of the alleged perpetrator.
11. Access to Post Exposure Prophylaxis should be a right for all victims of rape.
12. Testing and counseling centres should engage children as peer counselors to enable children to speak out better.
13. Children living with HIV /AIDS should have access to playing a meaningful role in programmes that affect them.
14. Discussion on HIV issues and the status of members should be openly discussed from national to family level to demystify the issues.
15. All organisations that work in the field of HIV/AIDS should work closely together between themselves and with the national programmes in order to derive maximum benefits for the girls who need the interventions.
Agreed to on this 2nd day of December 2007 at Seke Teachers’ College, Chitungwiza.
Photo on top from Paola Gianturco's book Women Who Light the Dark, published by powerHouse Books.