Girls in Zimbabwe are said to miss as many as 528 days across the full span of their school-going years. SGV is a rural development program in the Umzingwane District of Zimbabwe, which was established to combat this problem and improve educational outcomes for adolescent girls. SGV is a multipronged program providing: (1) sanitary wear relief, (2) mentorship, and (3) financial support. SGV beneficiaries or “Saved Girls” receive free sanitary wear from the time they enter into the program until they have finished school.
We have chosen to focus our activities in the Umzingwane district, which lies in the underserved and historically underdeveloped area of Matabeleland South Province; however, SGV also makes donations to other communities in need outside of Umzingwane, since the need for sanitary wear is a nationwide issue. There is an uneven division of the burden of domestic labour that falls more heavily on the shoulders of girls than boys. Cultural practice dictates that disposable sanitary wear is not meant to be disposed of along with household trash. As a result, girls must go into the field or forest and make a fire to burn and dispose of it. SGV focuses mostly on the provision of reusable pads for rural girls as it is their expressed preference since disposable sanitary wear comes with its own encumbrances that add to the burden of labour they already participate in.
The high school completion rate for girls in the catchment area is very low, as they are faced with many different challenges that impact their educational outcomes. In order to assist with this, the SGV program has developed a set of criteria for prioritizing its most needy girls who are at high risk of dropping out of school. It considers factors such as orphanhood, family income, and stability of the family structure. SGV also has a “buy-a-bike” initiative whereby sponsors can purchase a bike for a girl and make the distance to the nearest secondary schools more manageable. Save the Girl Child Movement is supported by a small donor called the Geddes Foundation in Cyprus.
It is only when girls have the education they seek about their bodies and rights, along with the quality products and resources they need to stay healthy and safe, that they can make informed decisions about their lives.
When girls are given honest answers to their real questions, their voice is affirmed, and they gain the confidence to step into their potential.
When girls have enhanced reproductive health knowledge, they have enhanced agency in decision-making and are shown to be more likely to make positive decisions for their futures.