START4Girls – Zimbabwe
Supporting Transition, Retention and Training for Girls
- Project: Supporting Transition, Retention and Training for girls (START4Girls)
- Goal: Improved access to and completion of educational learning among adolescent girls and young women, including those with disabilities, in crisis affected communities in Zimbabwe.
- Target group: Young women aged 12-22 years
- Where: Mutare and Buhera Districts in Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe
- Duration: 2020-2024 (4 years)
Zimbabwe has not been spared from the effects of climate change, and evidence continues to show an increase in natural disasters and disease outbreaks in the country. With more extreme dry and wet periods projected, this increases the vulnerability of numerous households, especially women and girls who are the most affected in times of crisis. Both Buhera and Mutare rural districts are located in the eastern dry region which is most susceptible to flooding and heat-induced droughts.
The START4GIRLS program addresses barriers that affect girls’ access to secondary education and/or training opportunities which could impact on their future as successful adults and their ability to be financial independent. Girls’ access to and continued attendance of secondary education becomes especially fragile in times of escalated crisis. Parents may prioritize education expenses for boys, with girls more likely to be withdrawn from school, either to help support their family or for early marriage. Increase in early marriage rates and transactional sex as a coping mechanism in response to lack of food and economic insecurity further prevent adolescent girls and young women from continuing their education.
The COVID -19 pandemic has made the fragile situation worse, resulting in increased risk of deep-rooted unequal gender roles for women and girls. In 2020, CARE Zimbabwe carried out an assessment on COVID-19 and gender which showed that women and girls’ responsibilities and unpaid roles as caretakers in the home increased due to the pandemic. Marginalized and disadvantaged groups (i.e. people with disabilities) and those living in extreme poverty are even more impacted by COVID-19 and other crises.
What we are doing
START4GIRLS works with girls and adolescent women, their communities, and religious and traditional leaders to promote the return to school or entrance into vocational skills training for girls who have dropped out, especially married girls and teenage mothers. START4GIRLS works at individual, household, school and community levels, supported by efforts to strengthen national education systems, to develop and implement learning materials, practices, and environments that are inclusive, empowering, and safe for girls that have long-term impact in Zimbabwe’s education and vocational training sectors.
- Reducing harmful practices and barriers to education for girls and young women;
- Strengthening policies and practices that prioritize the needs of girls and persons with disabilities, and increase resilience, safety and risk awareness and preparedness in schools; and
- Providing access to a range of in-and-out of school vocational training opportunities, especially in non-traditional areas for women, girls and disabled people.