By Robert Tapfumaneyi
MOST women living in remote mining areas are failing to access contraceptives due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, which have limited members of the public’s travel.
This has placed them at the risk of having unwanted pregnancies and other sexually transmitted diseases.
In most mining communities, only male condoms are available as a form of contraceptive but the women are unable to force their partners to use them.
Speaking at the Zimbabwe Environment Law Association (ZELA) gender and extractive symposium, last week, female participants said the other challenges in mining communities was that a high number of girls would fail to return to school later this month as they had fallen pregnant during the four-month closure of schools and other businesses.
“We are failing to access family planning tablets at our rural clinic and this has resulted in many unwanted pregnancies,” said Barbra Nyoni from Zvishavane in the Midlands province.
“The only thing that is available are male condoms but as rural women, we cannot introduce the concept of using condoms at home. This will cause gender-based violence in the home. The husband will ask many questions once you raise the use of a male condom.”
A Chiadzwa Community Development Trust leader Luckmore Mataruse said due to the prolonged lockdown, some women had been forced into sex work to support their families as their husbands are no longer employed.
“Some women are indulging in paid sex with older men working at the diamond mining company so that they get paid to feed their families,” he said.
“Some married women are also leaving their husbands preferring diamond panners who are providing for them during this lockdown. We are also seeing a lot of child marriages because of the lockdown.
“I don’t think many young girls will return to school when they reopen because a lot of them have been married or impregnated.”
Clara Magodeyi from Arda Transua complained villagers were moved from the Chiadzwa mining diamond field and forced to settle in an area where the village head has to write letters for them to travel to seek medical attention.
“The police manning roadblocks want us to produce letters that we are going to get contraceptives,” she told participants.
“However, for some of us, we stay in an area without village head and for us to travel to the nearest District Administration (DA) offices to get a letter to travel, you also need a letter to get there.”