Poverty is a major challenge in Zimbabwe. Moreover, due to traditional and religious values that promote the advancement of men over women, girls are the most impacted by economic difficulties and most susceptible to forms of abuse such as gender-based violence and child marriage.
Girls are made to marry young for two reasons: the dowry is a key source of income for families, and a married girl is one less mouth to feed at home. According to the United Nations Population Fund, 33 per cent of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18.
The high cost of education and difficult access to schools in some areas mean low enrolment rates for both boys and girls. However, with limited resources, families will choose to send their sons to school rather than their daughters. Girls who do enrol are forced to drop out when they marry. This lack of education makes it very difficult to break free from the social mould to which they have been confined.
Within this context, there is a high prevalence of gender-based violence. According to UN figures, about one in three women in Zimbabwe aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence and about one in four women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
The Girls' Legacy was established in Zimbabwe in 2007 with the goal of eradicating gender-based violence and building the capacity of young women and girls through leadership development and mentoring.
The organisation targets adolescent girls and young women aged 12 to 24. Its flagship programme, the DREAM project, aims to produce Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) girls and young women.
The organisation runs community clubs that are managed by trained mentors who oversee and facilitate activities. The clubs are aimed at promoting dialogue, study and sports and offer advice on sexual and reproductive health rights.
STOP THE BUS is a mobile HIV and gender-based violence service that connects remote communities with service providers. The Girls' Legacy runs several schemes aimed at girls’ economic empowerment to help young mothers and child brides set up income generating projects that will give them financial independence. The organisation has created a quarterly publication entitled “Letter to my Father” which gives girls a platform to talk about the experiences and issues that affect their daily life.
The Girls' Legacy is a grassroots organisation with good networking and advocacy that has directly reached 3,800 people. It is currently conducting research on the status of girls in Zimbabwe.