By Staff Reporter
UNICEF has launched a Communication Campaign on Adolescents in a bid to highlight a crisis in which the age group is facing multiple deprivations.
It will highlight the situation of adolescents, their power as actors of change in their communities and the programme work done by UNICEF, the Government of Zimbabwe and their partners for adolescents to address their needs.
The campaign is running from October to December 23.
Speaking to journalists at the launch of the campaign in Harare on Wednesday, UNICEF Programme Chief HIV/AIDS and Adolescent Development Jacqueline Kabambe said the circumstances some adolescents find themselves in are worrying.
“Adolescents pregnancy, teenage pregnancy is a very critical issue the country is facing because it comes with too many problems. Girls will drop out of school because they fell pregnant… they will have complications because their bodies are not yet ready for childbearing and will also be at risk of contracting HIV,” she said.
According to UNICEF, 22 percent of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 are already mothers.
A third of the maternal deaths are among adolescents aged between 10-19.
There are also over 85,000 adolescents 10-19 living with HIV while 4.1 percent of girls aged 13–17 experience sexual violence.
Zimbabwe is home to over 1 million child brides, with 1 in 3 young women having been married in childhood.
About 47 percent of adolescents are out of school in Zimbabwe and all of these deprivations impede adolescent development according to Kabambe.
According to UNICEF, adolescents represent the future of the country and one of the most important commitments a country can make for future economic, social and political progress is to address their developmental needs.
“Early adolescence, between the ages of 10 and 14, is a particular age when enduring patterns of healthy behavior can be developed”.
UNICEF said developing healthy patterns from the start is easier than changing risky behaviour that is already entrenched.
Zimbabwe has made progress in addressing matters affecting adolescents.
Notable accomplishments include the recent passing of the Marriages Act which prohibits the marriage of minors under the age of 18.
The Education Amendment Act has made provisions for school retention for pregnant girls and adolescent mothers, free basic education, abolishment of corporal punishment as well and provision of free sanitary wear for girls in primary and secondary schools.
UNICEF said it is committed to supporting national efforts of the Government of Zimbabwe to advance the development and participation of adolescents aged 10-19 in matters affecting them, and to ensure adolescents, especially adolescent girls, those with disabilities and the most vulnerable, are empowered and equipped with knowledge, skills; and opportunities to become socially and economically resilient.