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Tanzania is Playing a Dangerous Game with Girls’ Lives

As lengthy as I’m president…no pregnant scholar can be allowed to return to high school…After getting pregnant, you’re carried out.”

So said Tanzania’s President, John Magufuli in June. Last week, the International Women’s Health Coalition was one of 20 organizations, together with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Global Campaign for Education, that referred to as on the Government of Tanzania to rescind its  dangerous ban on pregnant adolescent women in classand finish its assaults on civil society organizations. Civil society organizations have been preventing bans like these across the globe for years; they violate women’ human proper to schooling and stand in the best way of improvement. These efforts are notably vital in Tanzania, which has one of many world’s highest adolescent being pregnant and start charges: one in six girls between 15 and 19 turning into pregnant. The nation additionally has one of many highest baby marriage charges, with 37 % of women marrying earlier than age 18. 

President Magufuli’s surprising assertion has renewed efforts to finish the ban, which has been in place because the 1960s. But the federal government is making an attempt to clamp down on civil society organizations voicing dissent. The Tanzanian Home Affairs Minister threatened to deregister organizations that decision for lifting the ban, in addition to teams working for the rights of LGBT individuals.

Attacks on the rights of women and women and the work of civil society typically go hand-in-hand and are the hallmarks of regressive regimes. The President’s statements are a stark reminder that even leaders who ought to be working to make sure the rights and improvement of all residents can permit dangerous ideologies to dictate coverage. The ban ignores the truth that schooling for women could be probably the greatest methods to stop baby marriage and adolescent being pregnant and empower generations to carry themselves out of poverty. A current report by the World Bank estimates the economic cost of child marriage to be within the trillions. His inflammatory feedback perpetuate stigma round teenage being pregnant and do nothing to stop it.

President Magufuli’s assertion that adolescent being pregnant is the results of promiscuity on the a part of women ignores proof that 90 percent of adolescent pregnancies all over the world happen inside marriage and that adolescent women typically have little control over their very own lives. This lack of autonomy, mixed with little or no entry to schooling, info, or sexual and reproductive health care, typically leads on to adolescent being pregnant.

As the late Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, former Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), stated so clearly a few years in the past, “adolescent pregnancy should not be seen only as the result of recklessness or a deliberate choice but rather that of an absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.”

Tanzania’s coverage is additionally inherently gender discriminatory, as solely women are stored out of faculty for being pregnant. It is additionally extra dangerous to women who stay in poverty, as pregnant women whose mother and father pays for a personal schooling can be allowed to proceed studying if the personal establishment permits it. The coverage won’t solely be damaging to particular person women however to entire communities and the nation general; insurance policies like this are an obstacle to Tanzania attaining the Sustainable Development Goals, notably Goal 4 on schooling and Goal 5 on gender equality.

President Magufuli is additional entrenching gender inequality. His insurance policies prohibit women from accessing schooling and health providers like contraception that may assist them forestall being pregnant. Instead of punishing women for being pregnant, President Magufuli ought to be concentrating on making certain that each one Tanzanians profit from packages which are confirmed to scale back adolescent being pregnant, reminiscent of complete sexuality schooling and high-quality sexual and reproductive health care.

These interventions are referred to as for in a number of UN resolutions and reports that keep in mind greatest follow and probably the most up-to-date analysis. The US Government’s Let Girls Learn initiative goals to deal with the limitations that forestall women from getting an schooling and is investing particularly in Tanzania. The Keeping Girls in School Act, launched by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) earlier this yr, goals to make sure that women around the globe can go to secondary faculty and prioritizes ending baby marriage and being pregnant in US overseas coverage. If handed, it will put strain on governments like Tanzania to finish dangerous and discriminatory insurance policies and practices. In Tanzania, the place lower than 20 percent of women graduate from secondary faculty, and the place the President himself is towards women’ schooling, passage of this invoice can’t come quickly sufficient.

Photo: Students in Primary Seven at Zanaki Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank

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