For Tanzanian girls trying to go to school, the stakes are unbelievably high: in the dangerous temporary accomodations where the girls attending senior schools must live, they are subject to sexual harassment and sometimes rape. Their stories are heartbreaking, and often result in women abandoning the educations that they had worked so hard to access. The men who harass and assault the girls act mostly with impunity; the rapes have yet to result in a conviction. The story was originally reported for the BBC by Lizz Pearson; you can read her full story by following the link above.
“Even if we scream for help, people hardly come to our rescue,” explained one of the girls. By the time the police get here, well… they’ll already be finished. So the men just do what they want.”
In the past decade, a number of secondary schools have been opened as a response to the expansion in primary schools. But because they were far from many villages, girls resort to living in cheap rented huts in what Tanzanians call “ghettoes,” which are located near the schools. There is little security, but the girls risk the danger for an education, which many believe will help lift them out of poverty. But if girls are sexually assaulted, the consequences can be dire. Some schools have a drop-out rate of up to 20% because of pregnancy. Officials speculate that many of these are due to rapes, which often go unreported because of stigma.
Nonprofit workers in the area have cited the need for increased education about this pressing issue. “It’s not enough just to build a hostel to keep girls safe. It’s this endemic idea that men have rights over women that needs to change,” said Rosie Martin, the chief director of African Initiatives.
This story both illustrates the bravery of the girls who are still, in the face of these terrible risks, attempting to get an education, and highlights the need both to provide them with security and raise awareness about the horror of sexual assault and harassment.
Photo from Flickr.