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Victoria Falls, Zambia

In Zambia, life for a young girl is hard. With over 60% of the population living below the poverty line, it’s no surprise that school dropout usually begins around the age of 13. Teenage pregnancy, menstruation, duties around the home or having to care for younger siblings, often causes girls to abandon their schooling, or fall more than two years behind their expected age grade. With very little support for those girls, it limits their potential and has other far-reaching implications.


  • HIV spreads twice as fast among uneducated girls in Zambia than any country in the world
  • Women with no education have their first birth 6.2 years earlier than women with secondary education
  • 1 in 10 Zambian women are married before the age of 15 and 45% are married by the age of 18
  • About 28% of young females aged 15 to 19 years have begun child bearing
  • 47% of women in Zambia have experienced physical violence since they turned 15 years old

 

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These startling statistic, along with many others, founded the need for African Impact’s volunteer programs in Victoria Falls. For many years, the teams on the ground have provided essential education, medical, sports, nutrition and community development initiatives that have benefited local people living in the Victoria Falls area.

Despite these successful programs, no program focused specifically on empowering the smart, young women that the team interacted with each day. Thus, The Girl Impact in Zambia was born.

How are we fighting for gender equality at Victoria Falls?

A third of girls aged 10 – 14 in Zambia are already off course with their schooling. In rural areas, such as the communities surrounding Victoria Falls, there is little support for young women who have dropped out of school, or who are falling behind in certain subjects.

In weekly sessions, girls and boys across multiple village communities receive extra support from our volunteers. In schools, our maths clubs help the children improve their numeracy skills and this extra tuition can keep them on track with the curriculum they are being taught in school.

Further to numeracy assistance, volunteers also provide literacy and reading clubs, of which children are able to attend at any time. During these voluntarily-attended sessions, the children will read and write in English, which helps them gain confidence in their spoken English language, as well as improving their employ-ability skills. The intent of these sessions is to not only improve the children’s skills, but also increase their knowledge of other topics by reading books that are related to staying in school, living a healthy life or even learning about history.

After extensive research on what health-related issues the girls and the community at large needed more information about, The  Girl Impact began organising the curriculum needed to provide adequate and resourceful health knowledge in the Victoria Falls area.

While we initially focused on alcohol abuse, sickle cell anemia and diabetes, the girls then requested more information related to their bodies, HIV, AIDS, STIs, reproductive health, and how to live a healthy life. We now cover a wide range of topics in our weekly sessions with the younger girls (as well as older women) and tackle some of the most sensitive issues in specific workshops.

Gender-based violence is a regular threat to girls in the Victoria Falls area. Nearly half of women in Zambia (47%) and 1 third of men agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife should she argue with him, neglect the children, go out without telling him, refuse to have sexual intercourse with him, or even burn the food.

To combat this, volunteers and staff work with organisations in the area who specialise in gender-based violence awareness, and host workshops and activities aimed at both girls and boys to try and change attitudes related to violence and inequality. We also host workshops for teachers and older community members to empower them to feel confident in combating and dealing with instances of bullying and rape.

The knock-on effects of early motherhood include school dropout, early marriage and social isolation within the communities surrounding Victoria Falls.

Volunteers therefore work with community members in local clinics and schools to educate girls on the importance of healthy relationships, practising safe sex and discuss the potential implications of early marriage. Most significantly, we also ensure that boys are involved in discussions relating to contraception and the role of women. By doing this, we hope to encourage young boys to respect the women in their lives.

By facilitating these discussions and providing resources that are socially and culturally relevant, both boys and girls in the community are able to feel more confident about discussing sex, as well as becoming more able to make informed decisions about sexual activity and marriage.

A girl’s weak social, health, and economic assets can be directly linked to a failing education system and cultural norms in Zambia. While cultural norms can be influenced over time, initiatives that promote income-generation and skills development for young women are an immediate necessity.

The Girl Impact partners with a local organisation, Pure Skills, who make reusable sanitary wear for girls and women, whilst training local community members on the production. The NGO also offers skills training for girls, which allows The Girl Impact to then develop small co-operative groups to generate income and savings in a sustainable way. Older members of the community, both men and women, help with the skills training and act as mentors.

Training girls in entrepreneurship and how to start and run a successful business from the ground-up, is also incorporated into the program. We specifically work on knitting, sewing and farming as these are proven to be successful income generation opportunities for women and girls in the area.

Girl Talk is our after school drop-in club and safe space for girls to come together to make friends, learn and support each other. It is a place where speakers are invited to discuss all things that relate to being a woman in Zambia, as well as an opportunity for the girls to take part in workshops that focus on building confidence and new skills.

One of the main focuses of the initiative is to raise awareness of the issues facing child brides and allow them to continue a social network of peers, something which is often taken from them once they are married. Building support groups such as this is a fantastic way to build confidence and trust in young people, who are then better able to articulate their opinions, worries and concerns.