What needs to change?
Takondwa told us how some school lessons were given on the radio, but they were not very structured. Furthermore, access to radio for women and girls is still challenging in rural areas where it is still used predominantly by men. Students need to be able to access education without physically being there.
COVID-19 showed that sometimes interventions rely too much on external structures for delivering adolescent health. Takondwa described how community-based agents were initially introduced to provide SRHR information and services due to some resistance from parents. As a result, the community-based agents bypassed the parents. However, when the lockdown began, schools, clubs, and community-based agents could no longer reach girls, leaving them with little access SRHR information and products. The pandemic demonstrated how the strategy to bypass parents and reliance on external structures needs to be adapted and parents need to be more engaged. Access to SRHR needs to be guaranteed no matter the circumstances.
Takondwa told us that programming needs continue to emphasizing girl empowerment and resilience and equip girls with the skills and motivation to make their own decisions. Takondwa also believes that child marriage interventions need to be scaled up. She observed that girls who participated in MTBA girls clubs were generally able to avoid child marriage and early pregnancy during the lockdown. However, this was not the same for girls outside of the clubs. Takondwa said, “Even if the intervention is so good… they are just a drop in the ocean.” Child marriage interventions need to scaled up so they can reach more girls.
Takondwa said that “For child marriage to really see an impact at a national level, we need to go to more areas.” To accomplish this,more funding is needed. Takondwa explained that governments, international organizations, and donor governments need to continue funding local NGOs and continue funding interventions on the grassroots level.