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Launch of The Education Plus Initiative to foreground gender equity and empowerment of adolescent girls and young women

The DBE ensures that learners and educators are able to learn and teach in safe and conducive environments, through the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning Framework. The Care and Support Services Branch, through the collaboration of the Directorates: Health Promotion and Social Cohesion and Equity in Education, will again be joining forces to assist with the holistic empowerment of the girl child through the launch of the Education Plus Initiative (EPI). 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence as well as the associated risk of HIV/AIDS. Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during their critical formative years, but also as they mature into meaningful women. The EPI is centred on the recognition of access to services as a human right, and is a high-profile, high-level advocacy drive to accelerate rights-based actions and investments to prevent HIV. The focus is for the rights, dignity and realisation of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) to be reprioritised and committed to, thus living a productive life free of gender discrimination, violence and HIV and AIDS,” said Mr Likho Bottoman, Director for Social Cohesion and Equity in Education. 

Basic Education Deputy Minister, Dr Reginah Mhaule, will be launching the EPI at the Department of Basic Education building in Pretoria on 31 March 2022, along with the Departments of Health and Social Development, and the Heads of United Nations Agencies and South African National AIDS Council (SANAC). The launch is linked to the closure of Human Rights Month and International Women’s Month, symbolising the holistic emancipation of vulnerable learners and the girl child in particular.

The EPI is aimed at stepping-up investments in a holistic, multi-sectoral approach around the core elements of female empowerment and gender equality. It focuses on critical enablers through a two-pronged strategy. Firstly, ensuring that girls complete quality secondary education through investments for the roll-out of free universal access, as well as ending discriminatory policies, laws and practices that deny girls their right to education. Secondly, educational systems will be leveraged as strategic entry points for advancing gender equity and the empowerment of all adolescent girls and young women by 2025. This will be attainable through the key components of the EPI that every adolescent girl and young woman should be entitled to transition into adulthood. These include: completion of quality secondary education; universal access to comprehensive sexuality education; the fulfilment of sexual and reproductive health and rights; freedom from gender-based and sexual violence; school-to-work transitions, and economic security and empowerment.

Deputy Minister, Dr Reginah Mhaule, joined by the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dlomo, officially launched the National Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy as part of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in schools as an urgent solution to prevent Early and Unintended Pregnancy (EUP) within schools. The launch took place at Platinum Village Secondary School in Rustenburg, North-West Province, on 17 February 2022. The Policy will assist in terms of creating an enabling environment that supports all learners and prevents discrimination and stigmatisation of pregnant learners. It will further play a crucial role in preventing learner pregnancy through access to comprehensive pregnancy prevention information and School Reproductive Health Services (SRHS). 

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