Court case filed against Tanzania to overturn ban on pregnant girls attending school

Equality Now: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 November 2020:

International women’s rights organization – Equality Now, alongside its partner in Tanzania, last Friday filed a joint case at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights against the Government of Tanzania, seeking to overturn the country’s discriminatory policy of permanently expelling pregnant girls from school and banning adolescent mothers from returning to school after giving birth.

Preventing pregnant girls and adolescent mothers from attending public school denies them access to education and keeps many trapped in a cycle of poverty, exposing them to additional human rights violations including child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and sexual and labor exploitation.

Tanzania has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. UNFPA states one in four girls aged 15 to 19 in the country is either pregnant or has given birth, and the proportion has increased from 23 percent in 2010 up to 27 percent in 2015 according to Tanzania’s own government data.

Tanzania’s policy of expelling pregnant girls from primary and secondary school dates back to 1961, but the practice has escalated during the past five years because of public endorsement by senior government officials.

There is no accurate data available on the number of girls who are affected by this discriminatory ban but sources estimate that thousands are forced from education every year.

Faiza Mohamed, the Director of Equality Now’s Africa office explains: “We have advocated for more than three years for the Government of Tanzania to lift the ban on pregnant girls and adolescent mothers accessing school but without success. The African Court is our last resort and we are hopeful that the voices of these girls – many of whom are victims of sexual violence or coercion – will finally be heard.”

The landmark case was submitted to the African Court in Arusha, Tanzania, on 19 November 2020.

This comes on the eve of World Children’s Day, observed annually by the United Nations and civil society on November 20 as an opportunity to promote children’s rights and reflect on what more must be achieved.

At the heart of this lies the advancement of gender equality and the creation of a more just and equitable world for girls. This cannot be achieved without ensuring access to education for all girls, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances.

“Today’s filing against the Government of Tanzania marks an important step towards the realization of the right to education for all girls in Tanzania,” said Ms. Mohamed

In March 2020, a similar regulation preventing pregnant girls from attending school was repealed in Sierra Leone. This came after Equality Now and local partners won a legal case filed against the Government of Sierra Leone at the ECOWAS Court of Justice, West Africa’s premier court, which ruled the state’s policy discriminated against girls and violated their right to equal education.

About the author

Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world by combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy.

It’s international network of lawyers, activists, and supporters achieve legal and systemic change by holding governments responsible for enacting and enforcing laws and policies that end legal inequality, sex trafficking, online sexual exploitation, sexual violence, and harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation

4 Comments

  1. Mr Wiecha – its always a great delight to hear your candid opinions, and criticisms on this glorious forum especially when you come guns blazing, determined to take me down.(lol) Strangely, my girlfriend also disagrees with my incisive stance on this issue but that’s okay, its fine; not many people I know have been gifted enough to be able to comprehend the subtle perceptive utterances of an insightful genius.( lol) Now, let me reiterate; the principal goal of these Women’s rights groups should not be to get these girls into overcrowded classrooms by any means necessary; Nope, that will be a totally reckless, incautious move full of potential problems and risks to the long-term well-being of the pregnant mother.

    In Africa most of these pregnant young girls come from impoverished backgrounds where they’ve suffered countless frightening traumatic ordeals – Yep, problems stemming from rape, violence, forced marriages and of course many have being coerced or forced into prostitution by friends, family members and economic hardships. Answer – Is such a person not traumatized and in dire need of counselling, psychological help and mental evaluation? Which public schools are you aware of Sir, in Sierra Leone or Tanzania that offer such multifaceted scientific disciplines purposefully to enhanced human development and the cognitive abilities of pregnant girls? Don’t answer just yet! Again why would any right thinking person try to expose naive innocent girls to a lifestyle they never imagined existed? Are you aware Sir, that bad behavior is as contagious as the Flu? Since when did birds of the same feathers stop soaring and flocking together?

    Sincerely, government should create special institutions and schools for pregnant and nursing young mothers that will teach them how to be responsible mothers, and citizens who must strive to overcome setbacks and obstacles that they may eventually come across – there are things a pregnant girl cannot learn in Public schools, they must be catered for separately in an atmosphere of trust and discipline. Friends you say? Well there will time enough for frolicking around with friends, firstly get your life and priorities in order. Are you answered Sir? (lol)

  2. It is only right that the international women’s rights group pursues this case though the African courts, to restore some sanity in a system where the Tanzanian state is abdicating its role to protect these young girls who found themselves in this predicament. Not long ago pregnant school girls in Sierra leone were facing the same discrimination, when the previous government prohibited pregnant school girls from attending school, and sitting their exams. And all this took place during the Ebola crisis.

    Thank goodness their case was taken up by the ECOWAS court, which ruled in their favour and ordered the immediate overturn of the ban. Hence the recent lifting of the ban. It is a shame that the Bio government was forced into it, given how much he professed to be committed to gender equality and protecting our girls and working towards the welfare of women in Sierra Leone. I think the African Court should use the ECOWAS case ruling against the Sierra Leone government as a precedent and rule in favour of the Tanzanian pregnant school girls. Because this girls are not only dealing with unplanned pregnancies, but also have to deal with societies that are steeped in tradition, peer pressure, families that in some cases not supportive and worst, communities that frown on them.

    That is why we need more women in parliament, so women issues are represented in the decision making in male dominated governments.

  3. Oh Mr. Stargazer/Saidu Conteh,
    I do not agree with you, to separate these pregnant girls/women in a special school. I believe it should be much more better if they stay together with their old friends, girls and boys, in the same class. If the teachers are well educated in sexual enlightenment, these girls can help with their experiences to protect the other pupils against pregnancy and early marriage. Stargazer, what is the opinion of your recovered wife about this?

  4. International women rights groups like Plan International, Womankind worldwide and Equality, now need to be loudly applauded for the good work they have been doing over the years. in the face of social misconceptions, strong opposition, skepticism, threats and intimidation. However, I strongly believe that their methods in achieving their goals are unprogressive and ill-advised; sustainable results can only be achieved if they can sincerely engage themselves in constructive critical dialogue with educators, government officials, parents and stakeholders, about the benefits and disadvantages of allowing pregnant girls to attend public schools.

    This of course, should be their foremost priority instead of using any questionable means available to squeeze pregnant girls and adolescent mothers into overcrowded public classrooms. Again, those who are against such an idea have repeatedly voiced their concerns about having innocent children casually intermingle with young girls already familiar, exposed and at ease with diverse kinds of sexual behaviors. “A guileless fragile ewe lamb is not exactly the same thing as an open-eyed adult sheep,”they explained.

    But what say you Stargazer about such an important issue? Those who are against the idea of integrating young pregnant girls into our public schools, so that they can become educated as they quietly blend into a functioning whole, should not be brushed aside. They should be allowed
    to voice their concerns. My friend, I sincerely believe, that it is the responsibility of government to build special public schools and facilities for young mothers and girls who are pregnant for they have lost their childlike innocence. Why put a big fish that has been out there, swimming in the vast salty ocean again and again in a small pond with the teeny, weeny little fishes only familiar with tiny spaces and the warmth of fresh water? (lol)

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