Violence such as femicide, human trafficking and rape were daily risks that cut off the school careers of girls, the Commission for Gender Equality explains.
According to Tamara Mathebula, chair of the Commission for Gender Equality, their statistics shows a spike in the dropout rate of girls at primary school, with 400,000 out of the school system as of October 2018.
This pattern was also seen at tertiary education level, where women were more likely to drop out before graduating than young men.
Violence, early exposure to sexual activity and poverty are holding back young girls from becoming educated and employed.
“We are also seeing that girls usually make their sexual debut at a much younger age compared to young boys and as a result, we see pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” said Mathebula.
“We know that South Africa is the leading country when it comes to the prevalence of HIV infections and according to new research, we know that this is predominantly among young black women and girls.”
She added that because many girls walked long distances to and from school, violence such as femicide, human trafficking and rape were daily risks that cut off the school careers of girls.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) head of gender, Dr Lauren Rumble, the organisation’s latest report showed a record number of girls in school worldwide over the past 25 years. But despite this, in sub-Saharan Africa they faced tremendous risks to their safety.
According to the report, over 13 million girls have been raped and more than a third risk violence by a partner in adolescence.
Less than 10% seek help for violence against them, showing violence was pervasive and opportunities for care and support were lacking.
“Our report doesn’t cover country level data but we know that violence against women and girls in South Africa is extremely high,” said Rumble.
“Urgent action is required. Intergenerational, multisectoral intervention is needed to prevent violence where it starts. Unless we end violence, we cannot guarantee girls a future and they cannot contribute to the economy and the future of their country.”
According to a recent report by Unicef, although sub-Saharan Africa had a 22% decline in the adolescent birth rate over the past 25 years, it still had the highest rate of any region globally, at 103 births per 1,000 adolescent girls. This meant that for every 100 adolescents, 10 gave birth.
Compounding the problem, said Unicef spokeswoman Nadia Samie-Jacobs, was the unrelenting HIV infection rate among girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
“They are infected at four times the rate of boys,” said Samie-Jacobs.
Another report released by UN Women and UNAids showed that Aids remained the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age worldwide.
Aids is still the leading cause of death for women aged between 15 and 49 and about 6,000 women aged between 15 and 24 are infected with HIV every week.
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