by Clemence Machadu
Today is International Day of Rural Women but the day is just like any other day to many rural women here, as they don't even know about the day. I came to the conclusion after talking to twenty young women this morning here, who were all not aware that today is their day. ''I didn't even know that today is International Day for Rural Women,'' said Edith, who is a temporary teacher for a local secondary school.
The United Nations Zimbabwe has joined the rest of the world in commemmorating this day by availing facts and statistics that caught my attention.
The UN said the critical issue affecting rural women in Zimbabwe is the high maternal mortality rate. ''Maternal mortality currently stands at 960 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is three times as high as the global average and almost double the average for Sub-Saharan Africa,'' said UN Zimbabwe. It also noted that rural women in Zimbabwe are at higher risk of maternal mortality as home births are three times more common in rural areas as compared to urban areas.
To address high maternal mortality in Zimbabwe, the United Nations says it is working with the government to supply primary health facilities with essential medicines, open midwifery schools, abolish user-fees for antenatal care services, establish maternity waiting homes and increase coverage for prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV.
The UN also said that an extra year of secondary schooling for girls can increase their future wages by 10 to 20 percent. Educating girls and women also has a positive impact on health, as they will be able to seek medical care during pregnancy, ensure that their children are immunized, be better informed about nutritional requirements and adopt improved sanitation practises.
''In Zimbabwe, the significant progress in improving girls' access to education over the last three decades is a cause for celebration.
Zimbabwe is likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target on gender parity at primary and secondary school levels. The percentage of female enrolment rate at universities has also increased from 23 percent in 2006 to 43 percent in 2011,'' said UN Zimbabwe.
The UN however noted that one of the major challenges for girls' education remains high teenage pregnancy rates, as one in four girls between the ages of 15 to 19 have already begun child bearing. ''There is thus need to provide a safe environment for girls to complete their schooling as an obligation to protect their human rights as a wise national investment,'' said UN Zimbabwe.