Sweden and Mozambique are worlds apart when it comes to gender equality. Perhaps that’s why the new Mozambican government program Action for Girls caused such a buzz.
Action for Girls launched this month, received USD $14 million from the Swedish government through the United Nations. The program will benefit more than 1 million girls and young women aged 10 – 24 years old. Mentors will serve the communities where they live, making them more effective role models and advocates.
“This program aims to help the adolescent girls to be increasingly active in society, in promoting their own rights, their sexual and reproductive health, with a view to their full empowerment”, said Ana Flávia, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports.
For those unfamiliar with the country’s demographics, Mozambique has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
Nearly 1 in 2 girls (56%) of girls marry before the age of 18, according to ICRW (International Center of Research on Women).
Lack of sexual education leading to teenage pregnancy is one of the main drivers. Also, wealth is mistakenly associated with child marriage. In rural areas, the overwhelming majority of adolescent mothers are married in their teens. On average, girls have their first child 15 months after they get married.
Moreover, girls and young women are more exposed to HIV infection at an early age. HIV positive young people (15-24 years old) represents 7.9% of total country’s population. Not surprisingly, women have a much higher percentage than men within this age group (graphic).
The program additionally works with communities to keep girls in school and to return out-of-school girls to the classroom. And it holds dialogues with parents, men and boys, helping whole communities to collectively embrace the importance of girls’ education and rights.
To find out more about the program click here.