This essay was written for International Day of the Girl by a participant of Lubuto's DREAMS program. Her name has been changed to ensure anonymity
In my view “The Power of the Adolescent Girl Vision 2030” is an important pronouncement, but for us to attain that, there’s need to protect adolescent girls. As we are growing up we face a lot of difficulties, not only physically but emotionally as well, as our bodies mature and change.
My vision for 2030 is a world where the adolescent girl is not forced into early marriage; where she is protected from rape or defilement; where she has the strength and self-awareness to resist peer pressure; and where she has access to sexual education.
Where I come from, parents and other elders in the communities are generally opposed to the idea of marrying off their young female children. However, in rural areas, the practice has proved much harder to stamp out. Most parents there are not aware of the harm it does. One of the major causes of this scourge is poverty. In exchange for money from the groom’s family, parents often marry off their girl children at a tender age, which is not good. Not surprisingly, the girls married off are rarely mature enough to handle the demands and responsibilities of marriage.
I’m making an appeal to our leaders to increase the age at which a person can independently consent to a marriage, from 18 to 20 or 23. I feel sorry for those girls my age who are already married because when I take everything into consideration, it’s clear that I’m not ready to be a wife.
Parents who force their children into marriage, instead of letting them go further with their studies, interfere with their children’s education. Government should continue to arrest such parents. Only by doing so will girls have the chance to achieve their goals.
I would like for our parents and guardians to make sure that we’re safe. Records show that adolescent girls are the group that is most vulnerable to defilement. Depression, a loss of self-confidence, suicide, unwanted pregnancy, and the contraction of STDs are just a few of the things that rape victims usually suffer. If girls don’t have to deal with this anymore by the year of 2030, I will be glad indeed.
This is something that the youth are especially prone to. Keeping bad company can have serious consequences on a girl’s life. She may be influenced into illicit activities, like prostitution, which can lead to early pregnancy and the contraction of disease. Girls should be taught how to resist peer pressure by being taught how to be assertive and to set goals.
Sex education is vital because it teaches girls how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to protect their sexual health. It also teaches them how to handle the sexual feelings that they develop when they growing. My vision for 2030 is a world where most adolescent girls are able to abstain from sex and concentrate on their school work.
Finally, I would like to emphasize to parents and our leaders that it’s important that adolescents receive the love and care they need as it is usually the absence of these things that leads them to falling victim to sexual abuse. Guardians need to be open so that we have someone to talk to when we are having difficulties or problems relating to our bodies.
For 2030, my vision is to have girls who have confidence in themselves; can tell right from wrong; are assertive, not passive, and have the courage to report their sexual abusers, no matter who they are. I’d also like to see a world where sanitary towels are available to every girl so that they able to carry on with their lives, no matter where they are – be it in school or at home.