Tanzania is facing major consequences for its discriminatory laws that ban pregnant girls from attending schools.
A source at the World Bank announced on Tuesday that the financial institution is pulling a $300 million educational loan intended for the country in response to the policy, CNN reports. Now the World Bank and human rights activists are buckling down on Tanzania’s government to support girls’ education.
The loan was set to be distributed last month to help Tanzania’s Ministry of Education make quality secondary education more accessible. The transfer has since been canceled, according to the source. It is too soon to judge how the bank’s decision will affect the country’s education system for better or worse.
Under the law first introduced in the 1960s and reinforced by Tanzania’s President John Magufuli in 2017, pregnant girls and teenage girls are banned from attending school. A few months later, in June 2017, Magulfi stopped allowing mothers who had given birth to return back to school. Magulfi argued allowing pregnant girls, and young mothers to attend school will encourage other girls to have sex. But in September, Magulfi advised women to stop using birth control to boost the country’s population.
"Barring teenage mothers from education not only perpetuates discriminatory gender norms, but is also an indication of government failures to address the root cause of widespread sexual violence against adolescent girls," Nairobi-based Equality Now human rights lawyer Judy Gitau said in a statement.
Back in 2013, the US organization Center for Reproductive Rights estimated that over 8,000 pregnant girls were being expelled from or dropped out of Tanzanian schools every year.
It’s imperative that young girls stay in school in Tanzania, a country with one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world, according to the organization Girls Not Brides. Almost 2 out of 5 girls in Tanzania are married before their 18th birthday and end up missing out on opportunities that are key to their personal development. Child brides who don’t receive an education are more likely to experience an early pregnancy, malnourishment, domestic violence, and pregnancy complications.
In an official statement made to CNN, the World Bank detailed the incentives for educating young women.
"The economic and social returns to girls finishing their education are very high in every society for both current and future generations," the bank said.
Expelling pregnant girls from schools is a violation of their rights protected under Tanzanian’s Constitution and international and regional instruments #Tanzania has ratified @UMATItz@ReproRights@Evelyne_Opondo@ACERWC_CSOForum— Selome Argaw (@SelomeArgaw) November 13, 2018
In the statement, the World Bank source also mentioned the bank halted additional trips to Tanzania because of the country’s recent harassment and discrimination against the LGTBQ community. In November, Paul Makonda, governor of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania organized a surveillance team to hunt down and arrests LGTBQ people. A week later, 10 men were arrested for allegedly holding a same-sex wedding.
The World Bank is committed to standing up against human rights violations in the country.
"Working with other partners, the World Bank will continue to advocate for girls' access to education through our dialogue with the Tanzanian government," the bank said.
And activists aren’t backing down, either.
"Tanzania should do the right thing — stop banning pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers from school and start doing everything it can to end sexual violence and provide an education to all children, as it is obliged to do under international law,” Equality Now’s Gitau said.