Girls in front of a school building

“Girls Shouldn’t Give Up On Their Studies”

Pregnant Girls’ and Adolescent Mothers’ Struggles to Stay in School in Mozambique

Girls walk out of the main entrance of a public school in Nacala, Mozambique, July 4, 2018. © 2018 Gianluigi Guercia/APF via Getty Images

Summary

Constância had an unblemished academic record. She never failed a grade and reached the 12th grade at age 17—a milestone that most adolescent girls are not able to reach in Mozambique because of the many systemic and social barriers they face to attend school.

But in grade 12, Constância had a child. She started missing classes because she had to breastfeed her daughter and had no one to support her with childcare. As a result, she failed some exams and dropped out without completing the grade. When she found out she was pregnant, she moved in with her boyfriend, a 25-year-old man. Once she gave birth to their daughter, she started taking contraceptives to avoid getting pregnant. Her boyfriend was against this, so she hid this from him. When her menstrual period became irregular, he accused her of having an abortion. He became angry and threatened to stop giving her money for the household expenses and her personal expenses, including the money she used to pay for her education.

Constância decided to leave her boyfriend’s home and returned to her family’s home with her daughter. In 2021, then 18, she could not re-enroll in school because she no longer had money to pay for fees and other costs.

Her parents committed to getting the money to pay for her enrollment in the 2022 academic year. “I want to go back to the same school where I was already studying because I’m used to it,” she said. “The school is far, and I spend a lot of money on transportation.” Like other adolescent girls and women who spoke with Human Rights Watch, Constância, now 19, hoped that her circumstances would improve. “The child’s father will take his responsibilities again and the baby will go stay with my mom,” she said.

***

Mozambique’s government faces enormous challenges in advancing adolescent girls’ and women’s right to education. Many girls face discrimination, gender-based violence, and poverty. The country has the fifth highest rate of child marriage in the world. Its adolescent pregnancy rate is the highest in East and Southern Africa: 180 out of 1000 girls and young women ages 15 to 19 gave birth in 2023, in contrast with the regional average of 94 births per 1000 girls. At least 1 in 10 girls has had a child before the age of 15, according to the United Nations. A 2019 study of data collected over time of primary school dropouts in Mozambique found that 70 percent of pregnant girls, many of whom were still enrolled in primary school past puberty due to their late enrollment, dropped out of school. The very low completion rates at secondary level show the tremendous challenge in advancing girls’ progress and gender equality through education: in 2022, only 41 percent of girls completed lower secondary. In 2020, only 4 percent of girls completed upper secondary.

In 2003, the Mozambican government adopted a ministerial order that mandated school officials to move pregnant girls and adolescent mothers from daytime schools to night-shift schools—building on an existing infrastructure used for adult basic education. This order effectively cemented and authorized discrimination against these students in the national education system, denying female students the right to study in day schools along with their peers.

In December 2018, the government revoked the 2003 order and instructed schools to enable pregnant and parenting students to study in day schools. Civil society groups in Mozambique, with the support of prominent political and social leaders, led a campaign that successfully pressed the education ministry to revoke the order, remove discriminatory barriers against girls who are pregnant or are parents, and protect girls from widespread sexual violence in schools.

With the removal of the order on night-shift schools and public commitments to tackle widespread school-related sexual violence and to increase enrollment and completion of secondary school, the government has shown political will to scale up and advance girls’ education. However, it has struggled to turn these efforts into a human rights reality for girls and women, many of whom continue to experience enormous systemic and social barriers to stay in school.

Human Rights Watch conducted research between 2021 and 2023 to examine the impact of the government’s reversal of the 2003 order on adolescent girls and women who are pregnant or are parents. This report is based on interviews with 66 people, including 51 adolescent girls and women, as well as rights activists, nongovernmental organization staffers, teachers, school authorities, and education officials, in the cities of Beira, Maputo, and Nampula, and the provinces of Maputo and Nampula. Some girls and women interviewed had been displaced by the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado province and found refuge in the neighboring Nampula province. They faced a compounded challenge: being displaced while coping with a pregnancy at a young age.

Mozambique consists of 11 provinces and Maputo, the capital city. Education is centralized and managed by the Ministry of Education and Human Development, and is compulsory until grade 7 and free for the first nine years throughout the country. Nonetheless, the enforcement of education laws and orders remains inconsistent and largely driven by geographical differences, including levels of development, access to resources, and other social factors. Maputo, located in the far south, is the most economically developed region, with the lowest rates of school pregnancy and school dropouts. The province of Nampula, located in the north of the country, is the most populous. It has a high adolescent pregnancy rate and one of the country’s lowest net enrollment rates in secondary education, according to recent government data. It also hosts hundreds of thousands of internally displaced children from Cabo Delgado province, which had the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the country in 2023: 55 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 19 were pregnant when they were surveyed for the country’s 2022 Health and Demographic Survey.

Human Rights Watch found that more than five years after the ministerial order banning pregnant students from attending daytime classes was revoked, girls and women who are pregnant or parenting, of whom many are also married or in informal unions, face unique barriers as they navigate schooling and the responsibilities of being a very young parent. Many of these can be attributed to the discriminatory foundations—through policy, practices, and attitudes—within the education system. In addition, they face other systemic barriers to education that are common to many more girls, including many from the poorest households, who struggle to stay in secondary school because of the lack of free education. These include the high cost of education linked to tuition and enrollment fees, payments for school uniforms and other indirect costs, and the often-long distance to schools and costly transportation. Students who are parents often experience a lack of support, encouragement, and accommodations at the school level that make it impossible for some to juggle schooling and childcare responsibilities. Their children often have no access to early childhood education programs, whether through nurseries or state- or community-managed crèches. Evidence from numerous countries shows that the accumulation of these barriers means pregnant or parenting girls are far less likely to return to school.

Human Rights Watch found mixed practices at the school level. Some teachers supported students who are pregnant or are parents to stay in school and encouraged them to study and stay in school; other teachers and school officials did not support girls’ retention in day schools, acted in disregard of the order, and encouraged or even arranged their transfer to night schools. Students themselves sometimes still believed that studying in the night shift was the only option they had. Those enrolled in the night shift reported many problems associated with going to school at night—including distance to schools, cost of transport, and lack of personal safety and protection measures.

A public secondary school teacher told Human Rights Watch:

There are problems with understanding it [the policy] at the base… teachers, school administrators. It is necessary to sensitize and provide accompaniment since the stigma against a pregnant student is still there. The scope of the revocation of the decree is not understood [by school officials]. Because of this, a pregnant student ends up self-excluding herself, often dropping out of school.

Most of the interviews included in this report were conducted in 2021, while Covid-19 pandemic-related measures were still in place. This was more than a year after Mozambique’s government declared a public health emergency and kept all preschools, schools, and universities closed for over a year. The lives of adolescent girls and women were affected—both positively and negatively—by interruptions to their schooling and loss of access to other key services because of Covid-19 measures. Some students struggled to continue studying using remote education methods because they did not have the time to study or lacked the equipment and money to purchase data. Others fared better because they could study at home and keep some contact with their schools, avoiding any additional pressures, costs, stigma, and exclusion associated with going to school while pregnant. Some were not able to return to school. Dinércia, 17, in Maputo city, was one of those who could not re-enroll in the 2021 academic year once schools reopened: “I can’t study because my baby is still young, and I have no one to leave her with because my mom does part-time jobs.” Like other parenting adolescents who are still students, Dinércia wanted to return to school but faced the type of obstacles that hinder many girls’ education: she received no support from her school, her school was far away from her home, and she had no money to pay for transportation to get there. She also needed to pay between 3,000 to 4,000 meticais (US$86 to $114) to re-enroll in school. Both her boyfriend and mother worked every day and could not stay at home with the baby.

In other instances, the students had their family’s financial and moral support, but struggled to attend classes because they faced constant discrimination from teachers, school officials, and peers. Anchia’s family supported her to return to school in the 2021 academic year, but she had a hard time attending classes: “My parents had the conditions to send me back to school, but it was very difficult to focus on the lessons when classmates and teachers had made it clear I was not welcome there because I was pregnant.”

While the government’s revocation of the 2003 order on night-shift schools was an important step, Mozambique still has an evident policy gap when it comes to keeping pregnant and parenting students in school: it lacks a comprehensive legal and policy framework to protect the right to education of pregnant and parenting girls and women. It also appears not to have adequately socialized its 2018 order. While some school officials and teachers are aware that the previous routine practice of referring girls to the night shift is no longer in place, this is not consistent. School communities and teachers do not have concrete guidance and policies at their disposal that spell out their positive obligations vis-à-vis pregnant and parenting students, including specific instructions on how to provide support for students. At time of writing, officials at the Ministry of Education and Human Development were seeking technical and ministerial approval of draft ministerial instructions on measures to protect pregnant and parenting students.

As evidence from other African countries, including Human Rights Watch’s reporting, shows, such a significant policy gap leads to the application of varying interpretations that are based on what school officials decide is best. Ultimately, it is girls who suffer most from the effects of such disparate decisions—many of them drop out of school because they lack the support they need from their schools and families at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. Benilde, 24, in Maputo province, told Human Rights Watch: “Teachers should also talk to pregnant students so that they keep on going and don’t drop out because they feel embarrassed… pregnancy is not a disease.”

Given the dire public health and human rights context, preventing adolescent pregnancies and ensuring that students are fully supported to stay in school should both be imperatives for Mozambique.

Comprehensive sexuality education remains an effective tool to ensure children and young people receive the information they need to make decisions about their lives. Although topics related to the sexuality education curriculum are covered in a number of school subjects, girls and women reported receiving little comprehensive information about menstruation, reproductive health, and contraception either at school or at home. Some students enrolled in the night shift did not have any access to content on sexuality or reproduction. During the Covid-19 pandemic, teaching of sexuality or reproduction-related subjects was not prioritized, as the government significantly reduced the curriculum taught in online classes. The government should adopt and implement a robust framework to ensure that timely, evidence-based, and scientifically accurate and age-and-stage-appropriate content on sexuality and reproductive health is embedded in its national curriculum and programs.

Adolescent girls and women should also have effective access to a wide range of acceptable, quality sexual and reproductive health services, ranging from access to contraception and family planning services to comprehensive, safe abortion care. Thanks to recent reforms, Mozambique has one of the most progressive laws on access to abortion in Southern Africa. Yet, access to safe abortion services is still not widely available to many girls and women, and implementation in accordance with Mozambique’s law is poor, according to the Coalition for the Elimination of Child Marriage in Mozambique. Girls and women who talked to Human Rights Watch said they faced barriers when trying to access abortion services—including being asked to pay for the procedure even though abortions should be free of cost in public health clinics; receiving incorrect medical information; and being discouraged by partners, family members, and officials. The government should closely monitor the implementation of its laws and policies on reproductive health to guarantee free and unrestricted access to services and information, and ensure adolescent girls and women know when, how, and where they can obtain them.

The Mozambican government has obligations under international and African regional human rights law to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights to education and the highest attainable standard of health for all adolescent girls and women, including those who are pregnant or have children. This requires that the government ensure that the services essential to these rights, including schooling and information about sexual and reproductive health, are available, accessible, acceptable, and of sufficient quality.

Human Rights Watch calls on the government of Mozambique to adopt legally enforceable regulations that ensures girls’ right to education during pregnancy and parenthood. Mozambique should give due consideration to the experiences and views of its adolescents and look at examples from other African countries, including positive policies adopted by Cabo Verde, Sierra Leone, and South Africa, to define its own human rights-compliant policy framework to address pregnant and parenting adolescents’ needs.

In its consideration of a nationally binding policy, the government should factor in four key components linked to its human rights obligations: 1) to guarantee flexible accommodations for pregnant and parenting students; 2) to promote inclusive positive teaching and learning environments; 3) to provide access to early childhood care and education for students’ children and ensure access to social protection; and 4) to prevent and tackle adolescent pregnancies through a robust adolescent-responsive response focused on sexual and reproductive rights. In the meantime, and to fill in the current policy gap, the government should expedite the adoption of ministerial instructions to instruct education and school officials to support students who are pregnant or are adolescent parents.

 

Recommendations

To the Government of Mozambique

  • Adopt and implement, in consultation with adolescent girls and women, a comprehensive legal and policy framework to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to education of students who are pregnant or parenting and have not completed primary or secondary education, including:
    • Interim ministerial guidelines to instruct education and school officials on their obligations to protect and promote the right to education of students who are pregnant or parenting.
    • A legally enforceable human rights-compliant “continuation” policy that:
      • Guarantees flexible accommodation for students, including time for breastfeeding, time off in case of a child’s illness, and additional support to catch up on missed lessons. Such measures should aim to support students who face additional and significant responsibilities as young parents and enable and encourage them to stay in school.
      • Promotes inclusive, positive teaching and learning environments, including by engaging and training teachers and other education officials to ensure they support the education of pregnant and parenting adolescents, and to ensure they guarantee an inclusive, safe, and discrimination-free school environment.
      • Expands options for childcare support, including prioritizing measures to better link state-administered early childhood care and education centers, including community- and state-managed crèches, to primary and secondary schools.
      • Focuses on preventing and tackling teenage pregnancies through a robust adolescent-focused response focused on girls’ and women’s sexual and reproductive rights, including access to comprehensive sexuality education that is timely, scientifically accurate, and age-and-stage-appropriate.
      • Includes outreach and collaborative work with families and communities, including with a view to tackling harmful gender stereotypes, harmful practices, and abuses that affect adolescent girls and women.
      • Provides counselling services for students who are pregnant, married, or parenting, as well as for their families, and long-term psychosocial support to adolescent survivors of sexual abuse, exploitation, and harassment.
      • Adequately responds to cases of school sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse against students in educational institutions, ensuring schools have functioning confidential and reporting mechanisms; senior school officials conduct investigations, and where the law is violated, refer alleged perpetrators to the police, and perpetrators of school-related sexual violence are suspended from any position of authority or teaching and prosecuted or dealt with through appropriate disciplinary processes.
    • A data and monitoring system to ensure schools:
      • Improve monitoring and data collection on girls and boys who drop out of school due to pregnancy, parenthood, or marriage, ensuring respect for children and young people’s rights to dignity, privacy, and confidentiality in the collection of the data.
      • Develop and implement mechanisms to follow up on and keep track of girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy or marriage, with the aim of supporting their return to school.
      • Monitor implementation of the policy by keeping data on the number of pregnant, parenting, and married students who get readmitted and on their school attendance and completion rates, and use the information to improve support for students.
  • Take immediate measures to eliminate all economic barriers to education for students who are pregnant or are adolescent parents, including by providing at least one year of compulsory and free, quality pre-primary education for children, and take immediate measures to ensure quality secondary education is available and accessible to all free of charge. Remove indirect costs, including costs related to uniforms, re-enrollment fees, and other levies charged at the school level, and significantly reduce or subsidize school transportation costs.
  • Ensure adequate teaching of the mandatory national curriculum on sexuality and reproductive health;  ensure all its components comply with international standards and best practices on the right to comprehensive sexuality education; and provide regular in-service teacher training on comprehensive sexuality education for all teachers.
  • Ensure schools and health centers work together to set up girls’ or youth clubs to provide students and out-of-school children and young people with information on sexual and reproductive rights.
  • Adopt and implement, in consultation with adolescents in the country, a comprehensive legal and policy framework to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to the highest attainable standard of health for women and girls, including by taking all necessary steps to ensure girls have free and unrestricted access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including fully informed and free access to non-judgmental and confidential safe and legal comprehensive abortion services.
  • Ensure the Child Support (0-2) sub-component grant is available to adolescent girls and women who are parents, including by providing clear information on how to access the grant.

To African Union Institutions

  • Call on Mozambique to adopt a legally binding human rights-compliant “continuation” policy, including by drawing on the successful implementation of laws, policies, and good practices in place in other AU member states, examples of which are outlined in this report.
  • With development partners, support Mozambique in the development and implementation of its national early childhood care and education priorities, with a focus on ensuring that all children, including young children from the poorest households, can access early childhood care and education services.
  • Provide detailed standards on the rights of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health services and information, including comprehensive sexuality education. These standards should consolidate and expound on relevant recommendations provided by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
 

Methodology

This report is based on 51 interviews with 5 girls ages 16-17 and 46 women ages 18-24, conducted from October 2021 to October 2023, in the cities of Beira—Sofala province, Maputo—Maputo province, and Monapo and Nampula—Nampula province. 31 girls and women interviewed were enrolled in school when interviewed for this report; 10 of whom were studying in night-shift schools. 9 girls and women dropped out of school when they were pregnant; 17 dropped out after they gave birth.

Human Rights Watch selected the provinces of Maputo and Nampula to understand the disparities in adolescent girls’ and women’s access to education and sexual and reproductive health services. Maputo, located in the far south, is the most developed region in the country, with the lowest rates of school pregnancy and school dropouts. The province of Nampula, located in the north of the country, is the most populous and has a high adolescent pregnancy rate and one of the country’s lowest net enrollment rates in secondary education, according to government data released in June 2023. It also hosts hundreds of thousands of internally displaced children from conflict-affected Cabo Delgado province, which had the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the country in 2023.

Human Rights Watch also 15 interviewed women’s rights experts and child-focused organizations, academics, schoolteachers and officials, and local civil society groups.

Every effort was made to abide by best practice standards for ethical research and documentation of sexual violence, including all efforts to avoid re-traumatization of survivors. We preceded and ended all interviews with a detailed explanation of informed consent to ensure that interviewees understood the nature and purpose of the interview and could choose whether to speak with researchers. In each case, we explained how we would use and disseminate the information and sought the interviewees’ permission to include their experiences and recommendations in this report. We informed all interviewees that they could stop or pause the interview at any time and could decline to answer questions or discuss particular topics. Human Rights Watch generally does not interview survivors of sexual violence under the age of 15 to avoid potentially harmful repercussions. Where appropriate, and in interviews involving adolescent girls, Human Rights Watch provided contact information for organizations offering legal, counseling, reproductive health, or social services.

For security reasons, only first names of adolescent girls and women interviewed are used in the report. Interviews are referenced by city or province to protect those interviewed. All teachers and senior school officials are referred to anonymously to protect their identity.

In-person interviews were conducted in line with Covid-19 pandemic protective measures set by Human Rights Watch to prevent the spread of the virus. These measures included adequate social distancing between the researcher and interviewees, adequate ventilation during the interviews, the use of protective surgical or higher-grade face masks, and regular hand disinfection. Interviewees were offered a face mask and hand disinfectant before the interview.

Human Rights Watch did not provide interviewees with financial compensation in exchange for any interview.

We reviewed Mozambican national laws, government policies and reports, government and Mozambican civil society submissions to United Nations and African Union bodies, UN independent expert and treaty body reports, UN, AU and nongovernmental organization reports, academic articles, and newspaper articles, among others.

The exchange rate at the time of the research was approximately US$1 = 35 meticais; this rate has been used for conversions in the text, which are often rounded off to the nearest dollar.

I. Background

Mozambique faces multiple critical challenges to advance girls’ right to education: it has very high adolescent pregnancy rates and desperately low enrollment rates of girls in primary and secondary school.[1] According to the United Nations in Mozambique, the structural disempowerment of women and girls is “compounded by vicious and incapacitating cycles of gender discrimination, as exemplified by the high prevalence of child marriage, teenage pregnancies, GBV [or gender-based violence], high new HIV infection rates for adolescent girls, and lower enrolment rates of girls in primary and secondary education.”[2]

Mozambique’s education system has also suffered through various significant disruptions, impacting its ability to guarantee access to education universally. These have included widespread interruptions of classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic and armed conflicts in central and northern parts of the country.[3]

High Adolescent Pregnancy Rates and Limited Access to Abortion Care

Mozambique’s adolescent pregnancy rate is the highest in East and Southern Africa: 166 out of 1000 girls and young women ages 15 to 19 gave birth in 2021, in contrast with the regional average of 94 births per 1000 girls.[4] Mozambique’s rate of unintended pregnancies among girls and women ages 15 to 49 is also high, at 88 percent. This shows a serious gap in girls’ and women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

Mozambique is one of the few countries in Southern Africa[5] where abortion is legal on request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and available up to 16 weeks in cases of rape and incest and up to 24 weeks in cases of fetal anomaly.[6] Girls under 18 can access abortion services but require parental consent.[7]

Access to safe abortion is still not widely accessible to many girls, and implementation in accordance with Mozambique’s law is poor, according to the Coalition for the Elimination of Child Marriage in Mozambique.[8] Unsafe abortions still represent a significant threat to girls’ lives.[9]

High Rates of Child Marriage

One of the most significant root causes of adolescent pregnancies is the country’s persistently high rate of child marriage: 53 percent of girls are married before they are 18, and 17 percent are married before 15, often in informal unions.[10] This places Mozambique in the five countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world.[11] In 2019, Mozambique adopted a national law to prevent and combat child marriage, including by prohibiting child marriage and equalizing the minimum age of marriage to 18 for both parties, without exception.[12]

Low Enrollment Rates in Secondary Education

Mozambique has one of the lowest secondary school enrollment rates across Southern Africa.[13] Transition to the first and second cycle of secondary school, which should happen when students are 13 and 16 years old respectively, is generally low for all children, but girls are disproportionately affected.[14]

In 2022, only 41 percent of girls completed lower secondary.[15] Completion rates at the upper secondary level show the tremendous challenge in advancing girls’ progress and gender equality through education: in 2020, only 4 percent of girls completed this level.[16] Over 40 percent of girls are out of lower secondary school, and over 56 percent of adolescent girls are out of upper secondary school. Mozambique’s data distinctly shows that girls in rural contexts, as well as those from the poorest income quintiles, remain far behind their peers in urban settings and households with more disposable income.[17] Conversely, national data analysis shows that girls with secondary education are 53 percent less likely to be married by age 18.[18]

School-related sexual and gender-based violence pushes many girls out of school. Girls are at a “disturbingly high” risk of gender-based violence, according to the World Bank.[19] While a high number of girls report experiencing or surviving physical, sexual, and emotional violence by an intimate partner, girls also face shocking levels of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by teachers and peers at school, according to Women and Law in Southern Africa, a legal and advocacy organization.[20] Seven in 10 girls have reported being aware of sexual harassment and abuse in their school.[21]

In December 2018, then Minister of Education Conceita Ernesto Sortane adopted a ministerial order revoking a 2003 order that mandated school administrations to shift pregnant and parenting students to night classes.[22] In the five years prior to the revocation of the original order, at least 14,000 adolescent girls abandoned school due to teenage pregnancy and child marriage—half due to teenage pregnancies specifically—according to the Ministry of Education and Human Development.[23]

In January 2019, Mozambique’s Ministry of Education and Human Development noted its concern at the high number of girls who drop out of school because of pregnancy and child marriage.[24] The government’s 10-year national education strategy, adopted in 2020, sets out a priority to tackle gender inequality and gender-based violence in schools, including through the re-entry of girls whose schooling was interrupted because of pregnancy or child marriage.[25]

Severe Disruptions to Education

In addition to long-standing challenges in securing gender equality in education, Mozambique’s education system has been severely impacted by public health and humanitarian emergencies affecting many Mozambicans, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the armed conflict and violence in the country’s central and northern regions. [26]

Mozambique’s education ministry data reveals that girls’ chances of staying in school are severely limited once they enter puberty. For those coping with Mozambique’s varied crises, access becomes nearly impossible. At this point, many girls face what analysts refer to as a situation of “no-return.”[27] The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the displacement from Cabo Delgado province as a result of the armed conflict are reflected in girls’ and women’s testimonies included in this report.

Covid-19-Related School Closures

On March 30, 2020, after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mozambique declared a public emergency and ordered the closure of all preschools, schools, and universities.[28] Most education institutions remained closed for more than a year.[29] The Ministry of Education and Human Development launched distance education programs that involved classes through television, radio, and an online platform. Teachers were also instructed to provide written materials for students who could not access those technologies. Less than 2 percent of students were able to use mobile learning apps, and only 16 percent of children received exercise handouts from teachers, according to a rapid needs survey conducted from August to September 2020.[30] Over 23 percent of caregivers interviewed for this survey reported not having any communication with teachers or school officials since schools closed.

Mozambique’s Coalition for the Elimination of Child Marriage, a civil society platform, reported that many adolescent girls and women who were pregnant during school closures, and who gave birth during this period, were not able to return to school.[31] A government-backed assessment by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) of pandemic-related primary school closures showed a significant negative impact on girls’ retention.[32] Girls’ loss of education, as well as the many barriers they experienced to return to schools, was severely affected by economic factors, including their family’s income and the need for girls to work to generate income for their families. Many girls also faced the disproportionate burden of house chores.[33]

Data from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) shows that teenage pregnancies increased across most Southern African countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.[34] In Mozambique, multiple organizations, including UN agencies, predicted a strong increase in adolescent pregnancies during the Covid-19 pandemic, tied in part to the spread of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated within many communities.[35]

Covid-19-related school shutdowns had varying degrees of impact on girls and women interviewed by Human Rights Watch. Some students struggled to continue studying using remote education methods because they did not have the time to study or lacked equipment and money to purchase data. Others fared better because they could study at home and keep some contact with their schools, avoiding any additional pressures, costs, stigma, and exclusion associated with going to school while pregnant. Those who studied in night shifts were moved to long-distance education programs during mandatory Covid-19 shutdowns.[36] Some girls dropped out permanently.

Students who were able to continue learning online, on their own and with limited to no teaching support while following a significantly reduced timetable, told Human Rights Watch that this provided them with the flexibility they needed to simultaneously study and continue to care for their children. In November 2021, Custódia, 18, said:

It’s hard to study in these pandemic times when we are our own teachers. Studying and taking care of the baby isn’t easy either. When she wakes up, I have to stop reading to take care of her... when she’s ill I have to miss classes to take her to the hospital. I take advantage of the time when she’s sleeping to study. I have no support from my school.[37]

Still, the possibility of studying online during Covid-19 school closures meant that Custódia did not have to miss any class time during the last trimester of her pregnancy. She continued studying and passed on to the 11th grade during the pandemic.[38]

But some girls dropped out and lost over two years of education. Verónica, 18, who was internally displaced from Mocímboa da Praia following attacks by armed groups, was among those girls. She continued studying even when she became a parent, but “[w]hen classroom lessons stopped because of coronavirus we spent a lot of time without information and doing nothing,” she said. “That’s when I stopped going to school.”[39]

Armed Conflict in Cabo Delgado Province

The ongoing conflict in the northern Cabo Delgado province, where an armed group linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) has attacked and killed hundreds of civilians, has led to widespread internal displacement.[40] In 2023, out of more than one million people reported as displaced, nearly half were children, while 28 percent were women.[41] Care International’s Rapid Gender Analysis, conducted in 2022, showed that girls have been exposed to high levels of gender-based violence and that early pregnancies increased in 2022.[42] Cabo Delgado province has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in Mozambique, linked to the province’s high rates of child marriage and school dropouts—55 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 19 were pregnant when they were surveyed for the country’s 2022 Health and Demographic Survey.[43]

Some girls and women interviewed by Human Rights Watch were displaced from Cabo Delgado province and found refuge in neighboring Nampula province. They faced a compounded challenge: being displaced while coping with a pregnancy at a young age.

 

II. Barriers to Education for Adolescent Girls who are Pregnant or Mothers

In Mozambique, girls who are pregnant or parenting, of whom many are also married or in informal unions, face unique barriers as they navigate schooling and the additional responsibilities tied to being a very young parent. Many of these can be attributed to the discriminatory foundations entrenched—through policy, practices, or attitudes—within the education system. In addition, they face other systemic barriers to the availability, accessibility, and quality of education that are common to many more girls who strive to stay in secondary school. Evidence from numerous countries shows that the accumulation of these barriers means pregnant or parenting girls are far less likely to return to school.[44]

Evidence from the Covid-19 pandemic shows that, in several countries, the lack of mitigation of these preexisting barriers significantly interfered with adolescent girls’ ability to consider staying in school, even when some could combine remote studying with additional caregiving responsibilities.[45]

A 2019 study of longitudinal data on primary school dropouts in Mozambique found that 70 percent of pregnant girls, of whom many were still enrolled in primary school past puberty due to their late enrollment, dropped out of school. It concludes that “targeted retention policies for girls should focus on their health and reproductive education, since staying in school protects girls from early marriage, teenage pregnancy and HIV infection.”[46]

Night-Shift Schools

Mozambique’s night shift policy that was in place from 2003 until 2018 mandated public schools to move pregnant students from day to night shifts, where they were available.[47]

When the government adopted the 2003 order, it justified the use of night-shift schools for pregnant and parenting students—building on an existing infrastructure used for adult basic education—as a means to reduce the number of pregnant girls in day-shift schools and to establish a “safe and healthy school environment,” according to the order.[48] Many civil society groups criticized the government for its conservative and discriminatory attitudes towards adolescent girls, including its segregation of girls on the basis of pregnancy and parenthood and consequent channeling of girls into a system designed for adults which did not provide the same standards offered to children in day schools. The transfer of pregnant students also meant that girls who got pregnant as a result of sexual violence were punished for the sexual violence perpetrated against them and re-victimized, civil society groups said.[49]

Although Mozambique revoked this policy in 2018, stigma, discrimination, and adherence to old, entrenched practices, as well as the lack of policy and specific guidance, mean that at least some teachers and school authorities still refer students to night-shift schools.[50] In 2023, five years after the order that ordered pregnant students to attend night classes was revoked, Human Rights Watch found that some teachers in the capital city of Maputo were still not aware of the changes in policy. A male teacher, who was hired by the education ministry in 2019, said: “I always knew that pregnant students must study at night, and nobody told me, not even during my professional training, that the government now allows them to study during the day.”[51] A male school principal in Maputo city said: “Apart from the decree itself, which is quite old now, there is nothing else in our professional enrollment or appointment that specifically addresses the situation of pregnant girls.”[52]

There remains a need to continue to sensitize teachers and communities about girls’ right to attend school during the day, according to Clotilde Noa, who manages Action Aid Mozambique’s right to education program.[53]

In some of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch in Maputo, schools continued to transfer students by default or rejected admission for those who appealed schools’ decisions.[54] Laura, 19, said:

When the school principal found out I was pregnant [in 2022], she called my parents and informed them that the school rules required that I moved to night shift. My father pushed back, and even had to get a letter from the Maputo Education Directorate ordering the school to accept me in the day shift.[55]

Laura’s neighbor and friend, Adosinda, 19, who got pregnant in the first trimester of 2022, was less fortunate:

The school principal told me I had to move to night shift because other girls had complained they did not feel comfortable around me. My mother reported my case to the parents’ association, but they refused to back us up, so I had to move to study at night.[56]

Nonetheless, night-shift schools are considered one of the options for many students who are pregnant or parenting because of comparatively lower tuition fees and indirect costs as well as flexibility around childcare. Isilda, 20, said, “I didn’t have anyone to leave my baby with because my parents work and my sisters also study. So, I asked to be transferred to the night shift so I could take care of the baby [during the day]. At night, my mom and sisters are at home and can take care of him.”[57]

Although night-shift schools may provide girls and women with more flexibility to balance studies with parental responsibilities, they also pose complex challenges for girls and women who go to them as an alternative. Girls and women interviewed by Human Rights Watch highlighted three main challenges: distance to schools, cost of transport, and lack of safety and protection measures.[58]

Muanacha, 21, who in 2020 got married to a much older man in an Islamic marriage, said:

My husband is a teacher. ... When I got pregnant, he went to my school and transferred me to the night shift. I don’t know why he did that. Everything became harder because there’s a lack of transport at night, and I don’t have company [to go to school]. Sometimes, I have to walk by myself, and I get very scared.[59]

Human Rights Watch found that some girls and women still think that night-shift school is the only option available to them because of their pregnancy. Berta, 20, finished 9th grade at the beginning of her pregnancy. She tried to enroll in the 10th grade at a night-shift school, but her uncle, who previously supported her financially, had no means to pay for school material and the school registration fee. “I was going to enroll at night because, from what I know, the pregnant [students] study in night school, and I was at the beginning of my pregnancy,” she said. When Human Rights Watch interviewed her, Berta had still not been able to find the money to pay for the various fees and was out of school.[60]

Margareth, 23, originally from Mocímboa da Praia, in Cabo Delgado province, was displaced from her village due to the conflict there and went to live in Nampula, over 550 kilometers away. Margareth first got pregnant when she was in the 5th grade of primary school in 2014, while she was still living in her village. She was unable to attend school due to ongoing displacement and marriage at the age of 17. When Human Rights Watch interviewed her, she was enrolled in the 10th grade in a public school in her neighborhood, and described learning in a night shift:

In 2021, I re-enrolled [after having to take a year off after moving to Nampula]. I paid 250 meticais [(US$8)] for inscription fees to study at night, but it was very hard. I had no company to return home and one day I was chased by dogs during the whole walk home and got back with scratches and crying. I told them at the church [that helped settle me in], and they informed me that I could ask for a transfer to the day shift. At the church, a lady who works at the school helped me get the transfer. I now study in distance education in the morning, I go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and had to pay 300 meticais [($9)] for school uniform.[61]

Guilo, 21, was also displaced from Cabo Delgado province and settled in Nampula province. Guilo wanted to request a transfer from the night school she attended at the time of the interview to a day school to study in the 10th grade:

It’s very hard to reach the school in this neighborhood, at night. There’s no transport and there’s a stream that cuts through various parts, and there are no chapas [or local passenger minibuses] on the other side. So we have to walk a long way and cross the river that we all know has snakes. When my belly got big, it became difficult to go to night school. I was scared because there aren’t many people around, and I sometimes had to stop in dark places to rest. There’s a lot of crime in this area at night. I ended up missing a term and failed.[62]

The government has acknowledged that students who attend night-shift schools may also suffer from poorer quality of education due to limitations in the curriculum and the lack of professional training for teachers, among other problems.[63]

Celeste, 19, who lives in Maputo province, is adamant that schools should allow pregnant students to study in day shift instead of transferring them to the night shift:
When schools find out that you’re pregnant they change your shift and place you in night classes. At night, you run the risk of being attacked, assaulted, kidnapped, or killed by thugs. Even during afternoons, it’s already normal to find thugs, when you return from school, that show you a knife to rob you.[64]

Orla, 18, who lives and studies in Maputo city, was transferred to the night shift in August 2022 when school authorities found out she was pregnant. But in 2023, she enrolled in a school following a successful intervention by the parents’ association:

I managed to hide my pregnancy until the end of the first semester. But when I returned from the school break, my belly was very visible. The school principal told me that I had to move to the night shift because I was a bad example to other students. But studying at night was not for me. I fell asleep during classes, and I was always tired at night. I failed the year. In the new year, my elder sister took my case to the parents’ association who were very supportive. I am now back in the day shift… it is still hard because I have a small baby. But it is far better to study during the day.[65]

Lack of Resources and Support

While some schools may no longer actively get involved in administratively shifting a student to a night shift, they also do not have a policy framework or ministerial directive to provide girls with the type of support needed to encourage them to stay in school.[66] Human Rights Watch spoke to two teachers and two school principals in Maputo city and two teachers in the central city of Beira. All of them appeared to believe that their responsibility as education authorities was limited to providing academic support only, and that any other support aiming at retaining girls at school was at the discretion of each individual teacher or school principal. This element, which is crucial in girls’ lives, did not get significant policy attention.

A veteran teacher at one of Mozambique’s largest primary educational institutions, said:

Our job is to ensure that students get as much academic information as possible, to become great professionals. That is a huge task considering the limitations of the education system. We do not have the time nor the skills or conditions to perform the role of social workers and help every girl that falls pregnant during the school year.[67]

A school principal in a secondary school in Maputo city said:

We are part of a society that is very diverse, and at times, very conservative. As a school authority, I must balance different positions. The issue of pregnant schoolgirls is beyond us. In my several years as a school principal, I have had to fight on my own, against parents’ associations, community leaders, and even journalists over my decisions to allow pregnant girls to study in day shifts, or for giving them time to rest or even to breastfeed. Some people even threatened to have me transferred to [distant] places because they felt I was too complacent with what they considered inappropriate conduct of girl students.[68]

Leonor, 21, in Maputo province, decided to drop out of school in 2017 because she felt embarrassed: “I gave up studying when I became pregnant. I was embarrassed to be seen pregnant at school. Had I had the support or incentives I would have kept on going … But I didn’t even have my parents’ support… they all left me on my own.”[69]

Dora, 16, found out she was pregnant in 2021 when she was in the 6th grade of primary school, in Maputo province. She had not planned to get pregnant and did not get an abortion because her family did not want her to have one. Instead, her mother and uncles resorted to arrange a marriage with her boyfriend’s family, which a tribunal ultimately struck down because it would have been considered a child marriage, Dora told Human Rights Watch. Dora dropped out of school because she felt ashamed of going back. She decided not to go back even when schools reopened after Covid-19 lockdowns. She would like to go back to the school where she used to study:

No one sent me away from school. I stopped studying because of my belly, I felt embarrassed… I didn’t know if they would laugh at me or make jokes because in my classroom even when people have disabilities or show up with dirty, unkempt hair they make jokes and laugh at you.

Asked about what change she would like to see, Dora said:

Schools could give us more support so that we don’t have to stop studying because we are ashamed of it [pregnancy], and in case we drop out, we can get our place back so that we can study again… as well as support with school material such as notebooks and uniforms, and milk and nappies for the baby.[70]

A female primary school teacher who has followed various cases of pregnancies among primary school students, predominantly in the 7th grade, said:

When we find out about a pregnancy case [of a girl in primary school], we tend to feel surprised, shocked.… We speak to them, …. We seek to find out whether their parents already know and call for education officials to talk about the situation. We also ask the student if she would like to keep [the pregnancy] or have an abortion. They are usually shocked, but we give them all the options. The main message we provide to them is that they shouldn’t give up on their studies and that pregnancy is not a disease.[71]

Stigma and Discrimination

Even though adolescent pregnancies are extremely common in Mozambique, many girls face stigmatizing and potentially punitive behaviors at school from their peers and teachers. For some, the social pressure is reason enough to drop out of school preemptively. Without support and encouragement, many girls drop out permanently.[72]

Some girls and women told Human Rights Watch that they experienced stigma and discrimination from their teachers. Custódia, 18, whose child was nearly two years old when she spoke with Human Rights Watch, said that at her school:

Teachers started looking down on me as I used to be a good and very dedicated student. They were disappointed that I got pregnant. They said I was fake, that what I looked like at school was not my reality after all. Others said they felt sorry for me because I had a lot of potential, but I wasn’t going to be able to take advantage of it because I got pregnant early. Few teachers supported me.[73]

In Nampula city, Muanacha, 20, said:

It’s normal for classmates to make comments like: ‘you were impregnated’ [and] ‘you are naughty which is why you are pregnant’ ... and for teachers to call us ‘the pregnant of the class.’... I also used to make those comments when someone else was pregnant in my class.[74]

A male teacher in a secondary school said that:

Prejudice and bullying of pregnant students is entrenched [in this school]. Teachers themselves make bad jokes. I’ve heard colleagues tell pregnant students ‘You have to give me more money because now there are two of you.’ In my experience, there is no effort from teachers to motivate students to continue studying. Additionally, teachers are not prepared to deal with pregnant students.[75]

Such attitudes, combined with limited to no support in their own homes or those of the boys or men they have married or lived with, quash many girls’ aspirations at a time when they most need support and encouragement to stay in school. The education ministry acknowledges that many girls are also not yet aware of their rights and more sensitization needs to happen at the school level, according to José Luis Sousa Manjate, director of transversal issues at the Ministry of Education and Human Development.[76]

Lack of Childcare Support

Most girls and women who are mothers and are enrolled in school face the sudden burden of childcare. Their children often have no access to early childhood education programs, including through nurseries, or state- or community-managed crèches. While some girls and women interviewed by Human Rights Watch received childcare support from their own families, most had no support at all.

Amina, 22, told Human Rights Watch she did not have the monthly 200 meticais (US$6.25) she needed to enroll her 4-year-old son in the local nursery.[77]

Dinércia, 17, could not re-enroll in the 2021 academic year because she had nobody else to care for the baby. She said: “I can’t study because my baby is still young, and I have no one to leave her with because my mom does part time jobs.” Like other young mothers who are still students, Dinércia said that she wanted to return to school but faced numerous obstacles, as outlined in other sections of this report. She received no support from her school, which was far away from her home, and she had no money to pay for transport to get there. Both her boyfriend and mom worked every day and could not stay at home with the baby.[78]

The Cost of Education

Mozambique legally guarantees the right to free education up to grade 9 of lower secondary school.[79] Students typically have to pay additional fees and indirect costs, including for school uniforms, school materials, and re-enrollment fees, to study in public schools. Students have to pay school fees to access the rest of secondary school, whether that is during the day or night shift. Those who are enrolled in long distance education also have to pay associated costs, including the cost of digital remote education.[80]

These additional education-related costs impact many girls and place an additional burden on students who are adolescent mothers. Girls managing new responsibilities face significant economic hardship—as young mothers, they are often forced to fend for themselves and their child. Aida, 18, for example, works to be able to pay for her child’s expenses and studies. She takes on odd jobs where she can: she cleans and washes clothes for people in her neighbourhood. With that money, she buys clothes for herself and her baby. She receives some support from her mom as well.[81]

Guilo, 21, stopped receiving financial support that Cabo Delgado province provided to internally displaced persons, and needed food support: “I now need to go beg or try to make business to get food, so my time for studying is reduced.”[82]

Staying in school while managing the cost of going to school—including transportation and school materials—is often an impossible choice for many adolescent girls and women.[83] Many, if not most, are dependent on their families; some rely on nongovernmental or charitable organizations.

Apsinía, 16, in Maputo province, found out she was pregnant in 2020. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she studied through at least two years of secondary school at home because schools were closed. To continue studying in higher secondary school, she had to switch schools since hers only went up to the 10th grade. She spends 65 meticais (nearly $2) on transport per day. “Going to school is very expensive,” Apsinía shared. At the time Human Rights Watch interviewed her, she was only required to attend school twice a week because the government had reduced in-person class hours through its pandemic-related management of schooling: “My dad pays for transport, but he’s only able to pay for it because I don’t have to go to school every day.”[84]

Constância, 19, has a year-old child and lives in Maputo province. She proudly told Human Rights Watch that she never failed a grade and reached the 12th grade at age 17. When she reached grade 12, she started failing some exams; she missed classes because she had to breastfeed her daughter and had no one to support her with childcare. In 2021, she could not enroll in school because she had no money. Her parents committed to paying for her enrollment in the 2022 academic year: “I want to go back to the same school where I was already studying because I’m used to it. The school is far, and I spend a lot of money on transport... 35 meticais ($1) only one way.” She had some hope that her circumstances would change: “The child’s father will take his responsibilities again and the baby will go stay with my mom,” Constância said.[85]

Day schools often entail additional costs because students are required to pay for uniforms, which are not required in the night shift or long-distance education. For Célia, 17, the decision as to which school she will attend is linked to the expenses she can afford to pay: “I want to return to school, but I can only go to the night shift because I don’t need a uniform there. I don’t have money to buy a uniform, and this is why I can’t study during the day.”[86]

For Lídia, 23, who has two children ages 5 and 3 and is enrolled in the 12th grade in long distance education:

It’s not easy to study because I need to buy megas [megabytes to access the internet] to access the remote education platform. I don’t have support from anyone since 2020 when I stopped working at the bar that closed due to Covid. I buy megas with the money left from the groceries.[87]

Distance to School

The distance to school and the ensuing transport fees required to attend school are a significant financial barrier for many girls in both urban and remote areas, whether they attend day or night shift schools. The long distance to school is a major barrier for many children across the country—52 percent of students live more than 10 kilometers away from the nearest lower secondary school, according to the World Bank.[88] The government does not provide students with financial support or subsidized transportation to get to schools.

Neide, 18, who concluded the 7th grade by the end of her pregnancy, proceeded to register for secondary school. But she was placed in a secondary school that was far from her neighborhood:

When I saw that my name came up in a school far from my home, I went to ask for a transfer to the closest school. They told me it was not possible to transfer me because of Covid-19. To go to the school I was placed at, I had to spend a lot of money on transport, whereas here in my neighborhood I can just walk. I’m not working, and I don’t have money to pay for transport to get there. That’s why I gave up. I’ll try to enroll in the nearest school next year.[89]

In addition to paying for transport, Neide would have to pay for a school uniform and all school material. These costs became insurmountable for her.[90]

 

III. The Way Forward: Including Pregnant Students and Adolescent Mothers in Mozambique’s Education System

In December 2018, Mozambique adopted Order 435 of 2018, revoking its 2003 ministerial order that mandated schools to shift pregnant and parenting students to night-shift schools.[91] In so doing, Mozambique took an important step towards removing a key discriminatory barrier against students who are pregnant or are parenting.

However, the government has yet to address several important policy gaps in the realization of many adolescent girls’ right to education. Foremost, as documented above, the government of Mozambique is failing to fulfill the right to education as it relates to the availability, affordability, and safe physical accessibility of quality education services, particularly for students who are pregnant or who have children.

Government authorities do not appear to have fully socialized the order to ensure all parents, students, teachers, and local school officials are aware of these policy gaps, or to have even monitored the situation. The government has not adopted much-needed measures to ensure schools are clear on the necessary steps for the inclusion of students who are pregnant or are parenting or that schools have the resources and support needed to implement the policy. This leads to irregular enforcement of compulsory education at the school level, where local school officials can decide what happens with pregnant students’ and adolescent mothers’ education. The following perspectives from three different teachers underscore the poor implementation of the order.

A female primary school teacher said:

[A]s a teacher, I had no information about the revocation of the decree. The practice when we suspect that a student is pregnant is to talk to other female teachers and approach the student to understand, support, and explain the risks.[92]

Another public secondary school teacher said:

There is no more rule about moving to the night [shift]. Now it’s optional and it’s the student who decides. There is knowledge about the revocation of Decree 39, but the process was top-down. There are problems with understanding it at the base… teachers, school administrators. It’s necessary to sensitize and provide accompaniment since the stigma against a pregnant student is still there. The scope of the revocation of the decree is not understood. Because of this, a pregnant student ends up self-excluding herself, often dropping out of school.[93]

He added:

I can’t remember any occasion where the school informed parents and school officials that a pregnant student can continue in the day shift. I think that the repeal of the decree is just a dead letter because there was no awareness of it. This fact may be associated with the lack of routine training for teachers where this awareness could be operationalized. … On the other hand, in general, there is a lack of involvement of parents and guardians in the discussion of laws or only those who agree are included. ... At the community level, views are maintained that do not help in investing in girls.[94]

Mozambique’s government should urgently address the policy gaps that are currently hindering girls’ education, including during pregnancy and parenthood, and elaborate on its 2018 order allowing pregnant girls to stay in school. These include wider systemic issues that affect all students, such as the lack of free secondary education in all its forms, the incidental costs of both primary and secondary education including the cost of books, materials, and school uniforms, the high cost of student transportation for students attending both day and night schools, as well as gender-based discrimination and school-related sexual violence. The government should also tackle the issues that impact pregnant and parenting students specifically, including the lack of inclusion and accommodation of students in daytime schools, the stigma and discrimination they suffer from parents, their fellow students, and school administration and staff on account of their pregnancy, and stronger linkages between schooling for pregnant and parenting adolescent students and early childhood care and education for their children.

The government should focus on closing the gaps between policy and practice, including by adopting and implementing binding measures that guide education and school officials. In particular, the government should adopt a long-term, legally binding framework that regulates what schools should do to manage and prevent teenage pregnancies and provide schools with the resources they need to implement the framework. At time of writing, officials at the Ministry of Education and Human Development were seeking technical and ministerial approval of draft ministerial instructions on measures to protect pregnant and parenting students.[95]

To be successful, a future policy should respond to the ways in which practices at the school and community level determine girls’ futures. Adolescent girls and women should have a meaningful platform to share their experiences of exclusion and discrimination, in education and other essential services, and be listened to and meaningfully consulted by policy makers and senior government officials.

The government should also ensure that stakeholders including teachers, school administration, and parents should be engaged in the development, implementation, and review of the laws and policies that govern girls’ ability to remain in school while pregnant and return to school after delivery.

Need for a Continuation Policy and Lessons from the African Union

Mozambique can look at examples from other African countries, including many of its neighbors, to define its own policy framework. Altogether, over 38 African countries have policies applicable to the rights of pregnant students and adolescent mothers, which fall into two main categories: continuation policies and re-entry policies. These policies encourage and support the education and academic progress of these students and prevent punishment or explicit exclusion from school because of pregnancy.[96]

The most robust and far-reaching among these policies are “continuation policies,” which have been adopted by Sierra Leone,[97] and South Africa in recent years.[98] Continuation policies stipulate a framework that enables pregnant students to choose to remain in school without a mandatory absence at any point during pregnancy or after birth.[99] They also give students the ability to stop studying temporarily for childbirth and associated physical and mental health needs, and the option to resume schooling after birth at a time that is right for them, free from intricate conditions for re-enrollment.[100] Some policies in this category reflect school obligations to provide accommodations for students. Examples include providing school-based counselling services, establishing early childhood centers close to secondary schools, and providing time for breast-feeding.[101] These policies better reflect the full extent of a government’s human rights obligations and emphasize girls’ autonomy in decision-making.

Human Rights Watch recommends that Mozambique adopt a continuation policy to ensure its policy framework is consistent with evolving good policy and normative practices across the African Union, and in line with its international and African human rights obligations. Such a policy should include the four components outlined below, to complement pedagogical and specific education policy measures aimed at advancing girls’ secondary education.

Guaranteeing Flexible Accommodations for Pregnant or Parenting Students

Human Rights Watch found that students interviewed for this report were not provided with additional support or low-resource but significant accommodations that would help them stay in school.[102] This is a key factor that tilts the balance for many adolescent girls and women who wish to say in school but are confronted with parental responsibilities, often on their own.

For this reason, Mozambique authorities should have meaningful consultations with adolescents. They should put in place measures to ensure students who face additional and significant responsibilities as young parents are supported and encouraged to stay in school.[103] Several African governments already prescribe these measures in their national policies applicable to the rights of students who are pregnant or parenting.[104] Such measures, or accommodations, need not disturb classroom routines and are typically close to or fully budget neutral. They center around providing flexibility for girls to accommodate their distinct responsibilities, for example by providing students with discrete breaks or time to feed their child; allowing them to take time off if they are unwell or having to take care of a sick child; and providing additional time to catch-up on or take exams.

Promoting Positive Teaching and Learning Environments

Positive and stigma-free school environments are essential to ensuring students who are pregnant or are mothers feel positive about staying in school.[105] In addition to not perpetuating negative stereotypes and harmful behaviors, teachers and school staff play a key role in tackling stigma within education and the community, as well as discriminatory and exclusionary attitudes against girls and women who find themselves in this vulnerable situation.

Some current and former students told Human Rights Watch that their teachers fully supported them to stay in school when they found out they were pregnant. A few teachers also told Human Rights Watch their default was to support pregnant students.[106]

Aida, 18, did not inform anyone in her school about her pregnancy. Schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic when her pregnancy was obvious, so no one at school found out and she delivered her son. Teachers who now know that she has a child motivate her to continue her studies: “Teachers support [me], saying I cannot give up.”[107]

When school officials at Dort’s school in Maputo province found out she was pregnant—when her pregnancy started showing—her school director called her to reassure her that she would not need to change school and to let her know the school was open to giving her support when she needed it. She felt strongly supported by her teachers: “The mathematics teacher always asks me how my pregnancy is going and how the baby is doing. They might pay me special attention because it’s a community school.”[108]

Such attitudes should be promoted as part of Mozambique’s aspirations to build an inclusive education system. Positive policies analyzed by Human Rights Watch devote significant policy attention and resources towards advancing inclusion. Sierra Leone’s national policy on “Radical Inclusion,” for example, explicitly stipulates that teachers will have pre- and in-service training in radical inclusion, will be required to report any acts that do not make children feel and be safe in school, and will make adaptations to school environments and teaching practices.[109]

Providing Access to Early Childhood Care and Education and Social Protection

Young children’s access to childcare and early childhood education, including preschool, is not only essential to their development, but it is also a key policy intervention to ensure adolescent girls and women can return to school.[110] In Mozambique, only 3.5 percent of children ages 3 to 5 access preschool.[111] Young children who do access early childhood education programs overwhelmingly do so through private or community centers.[112]

The government’s current capacity to provide universal access to early childhood education is severely limited by lack of national funding allocated to this level of education.[113] Mozambique should take steps, with donor and development partners’ support, to expand early childhood education and ensure it is available to all children without any barriers to access.[114] But even while it increases its national financial investment in early childhood, the government should include this focus in the formulation of its policy on adolescent pregnancies in schools. It should also prioritize policy measures to better link state-managed early childhood centers, including community-hosted crèches and informal early childhood or preschool programs, to schools in order to ensure childcare support is available for adolescent mothers of school-going age.

As documented above, most girls and women find it impossible to meet their child’s and their own basic needs while juggling schooling and childcare responsibilities. Some girls and women told Human Rights Watch they struggle to find viable employment—those who worked to try to make ends meet often had informal jobs. Girls and women interviewed recommended that the government provide young women who are parents with trainings and support to obtain employment.[115]

In 2019, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action began to roll out a Child Grant Sub-component for families with babies ages 0-2 years that targeted adolescent parents. The government should ensure all adolescent parents are able to receive social protection grants.

Preventing Adolescent Pregnancies through a Robust Adolescent-Focused Response

Adolescent girls and women in Mozambique face huge barriers to enjoying their sexual and reproductive rights. Preventing teenage pregnancies—through access to comprehensive sexuality education and robust adolescent-responsive reproductive health services—is imperative in a country such as Mozambique, where tens of thousands of girls face unwanted and unplanned pregnancies every year.

Lack of Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Human Rights Watch found that schools often failed to give scientifically accurate, fundamental sexuality and reproductive health education.

In 2013, the government committed to implementing comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in its schools, along with all ministries of education in East and Central Africa.[116] Although CSE features in the government’s school health and adolescent and young people’s strategy, and some aspects of CSE appear in the primary school curriculum, Mozambique lacks a national curriculum on comprehensive sexuality education.[117]

CSE is a key tool to prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies through knowledge and exposure to vital information, particularly when it is rolled out in conjunction with other measures to protect and provide access to adolescent sexual and reproductive rights services.[118] Teaching CSE as a compulsory subject helps equip children and adolescents with information about safe and healthy relationships, consent, privacy, and bodily integrity.[119] Through CSE taught at an age-and-stage-appropriate level in all schools, children and adolescents also have equal access to the information they need to identify and challenge behaviors that can lead to sexual and gender-based violence, including by intimate partners, peers, and teachers.[120]

Girls and women interviewed by Human Rights Watch had received varying degrees of sexuality education, but in most cases the information available in schools did not appear to fully support a robust understanding of puberty, menstruation, pregnancies, contraception, or other matters about their bodies.[121] Celeste, 19, said that they barely talked about matters related to the body and reproduction in her general theory of knowledge class. The information was passed on as just another aspect of a discipline, rather than information for life, she said.[122] Virginia, 20, in Nampula city, said they do not feel comfortable talking to their teacher about these topics because he is a man.[123] Benilde, 24, and Isilda, 20, said they did not receive sexuality education because this content is not taught in night-shift schools.[124]

In some cases, students received very little or misleading information. For example, Celeste said:

I remember that one of our teachers would say that a woman prior to getting pregnant should not use contraceptive methods like the pill, injection, [or the] implant because it can harm us and we would not be able to conceive. She advised us like that... that we should use them after becoming mothers. Before this, we should just use a condom. [125]

In addition to formally teaching comprehensive sexuality education as part of the curriculum, schools should ensure students can access timely, practical, scientifically accurate, and evidence-based information on issues like contraception or abortion in confidential ways. Teachers should also be provided with regular in-service training on how to teach comprehensive sexuality education across all subjects and be brought up to speed on contemporary societal issues that affect students.[126] Some schools across the country have set up girls’ or youth clubs to provide children and young people with information on sexual and reproductive rights, but these generally depend on partnerships with community or nongovernmental organizations and are reliant on development partner funding. The government should adopt measures to ensure that these are replicated at scale.[127]

Barriers to Accessing Safe Abortion

Mozambique is one of the few countries in Southern Africa[128] where abortion is legal on request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and available up to 16 weeks in cases of rape and incest and up to 24 weeks in cases of fetal anomaly.[129]

Yet, access to safe abortion services is still not widely available to many girls and women, and implementation in accordance with Mozambique’s law is poor, according to the Coalition for the Elimination of Child Marriage in Mozambique.[130] Girls under 18 can access abortion services but require parental consent.[131] Human Rights Watch has found that mandated parental involvement in access to abortion care can be deeply harmful for girls who often fear abuse, deterioration of family relationships, or being kicked out of the home or forced to continue a pregnancy against their wishes.[132] The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors government compliance with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, has recommended that governments ensure that children have access to confidential medical counsel and assistance without parental consent, including for reproductive health services.[133]

Unsafe abortions represent a significant threat to girls’ lives. Girls and women continue to face high levels of stigma and misinformation within their communities and in public institutions. The support and access to information girls receive from school officials appears to vary and be contingent on the school official’s own convictions.[134]

Although abortions should be free of cost in public health clinics, girls and women face numerous barriers to accessing free reproductive health services, including abortion.[135] Gilda, 21, was pregnant in 2019 when she was in the 9th grade of secondary school, which she did not finish: “I found out I was two months pregnant.... I spoke with my sister-in-law so that she would give me money to get an abortion. When I went to the Unidade Sanitária [health clinic] to get an abortion, two nurses there said they would charge me 2,000 meticais [$57].” Gilda did not have enough money to pay for the procedure. At home, she drank boiled Coca-Cola, an unsafe and unscientific homemade remedy that is popular among girls and women who believe it causes a miscarriage.[136] “I was in a lot of pain, and I was sick,” she said. [137]

The government should guarantee that women and girls have free and unfettered access to reproductive health services, including abortions. The government should also ensure that women and girls have timely access to accurate and easily understandable information to enable them to understand the reproductive health services that are available to them, and when and how they can access these services.

IV. Mozambique’s Human Rights Obligations

Mozambique is bound by international and African regional human rights law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Its obligations include providing free, compulsory primary education and ensuring that secondary education is available and accessible to all without discrimination.[138]

In implementing their obligations on education, governments should be guided by four essential criteria: availability, accessibility, acceptability, and adaptability. Education should be available throughout the country, including by guaranteeing adequate and quality school infrastructure, and should be accessible to everyone on an equal basis. Moreover, the form and substance of education should be of acceptable quality and meet minimum educational standards, and the education provided should adapt to the needs of students from diverse social and cultural settings.[139]

Governments need to ensure that different forms of secondary education are generally available and accessible, take concrete steps towards achieving free secondary education, and take additional steps to increase availability such as through the provision of financial assistance for those in need.[140] They should also expand “sound basic education” for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of primary or basic education.[141]

Human Rights Watch urges all governments to take immediate measures to ensure that secondary education is available and accessible to all free of charge. Human Rights Watch also calls on governments to ensure that they provide at least one year of universal and free quality pre-primary education. It is recognized that many low-income countries like Mozambique face serious resource constraints that limit their ability to immediately realize important human rights goals such as at least one year of free pre-primary education and free secondary education for all. Human Rights Watch nonetheless believes that the Mozambican government should treat access to both early childhood education and free secondary education as an urgent priority.

Governments should guarantee equality in access to education as well as education free from discrimination. The Convention against Discrimination in Education, to which Mozambique is bound since November 2023, obligates the government to eliminate any form of discrimination, whether in law, policy, or practice, that could affect the realization of the right to education.[142]

According to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, discrimination constitutes “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference or other differential treatment that is directly or indirectly based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination and which has the intention or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise [of rights], on an equal footing.”[143] In addition to removing any forms of direct discrimination against students, governments should ensure indirect discrimination does not occur as a result of laws, policies, or practices that may have the effect of disproportionately impacting the right to education of children who require further accommodation, or whose circumstances may not be the same as those of the majority of the school population.[144]

Mozambique has specific obligations regarding women and girls’ right to education, including girls who are pregnant or are parents. Under the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Mozambique should take special measures to ensure equal access to education for girls, and take all appropriate measures to ensure that girls who become pregnant before completing their education have the right to continue their education.[145] The African Youth Charter, ratified by Mozambique in 2008, also obligates governments to ensure girls and young women who become pregnant or married before completing their education have an opportunity to continue their education.[146]

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child have called on states to put in place measures to retain all children in school, put in place measures to achieve equal access to education for girls and boys, and encourage pregnant girls to attend or return to school. These bodies have jointly stated that girls who are pregnant or are mothers are “allowed and assisted” to return to school, noting that “it is compulsory … to facilitate the retention and re-entry of pregnant or married girls in schools and to develop alternative education programmes … in circumstances where women are unable or unwilling to return to school following pregnancy or marriage.”[147]

Mozambique has ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol or the African women’s rights treaty, which provides explicit obligations to guarantee the sexual and reproductive rights of girls. This includes the right to access medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, or incest, or where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s mental and physical health and life.[148] The Maputo Protocol specifically places obligations on governments to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, guarantee them equal opportunity and access to education and training, and protect women and girls from all forms of abuse, including sexual harassment in schools.[149]

All children and adolescents have a right to information about sexual and reproductive health, as guaranteed under international law. The right to information includes a positive responsibility to provide complete and accurate information necessary for the protection and promotion of rights, including the right to health.[150] The Committee on the Rights of the Child has noted that “States should ensure that health systems and services are able to meet the specific sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents, including family planning and safe abortion services.”[151] Adolescents should have access to “free, confidential adolescent-responsive and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health services, information and education, available both online and in person.”[152] Girls should have access to safe abortion and post-abortion services.[153] The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has clarified that “[t]he right to health care without discrimination requires State parties to remove impediments to the health services reserved for women, including ideology or belief-based barriers.”[154]

Mozambique has an obligation to guarantee comprehensive sexuality education.[155] The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights notes the interdependence of the realization of the right to sexual and reproductive health with the right to education and the right to non-discrimination and equality between men and women, which, when combined, entail a “right to education on sexuality and reproduction.”[156]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended that states adopt:

Age-appropriate, comprehensive and inclusive sexual and reproductive health education, based on scientific evidence and human rights standards and developed with adolescents, should be part of the mandatory school curriculum and reach out-of-school adolescents. Attention should be given to gender equality, sexual diversity, sexual and reproductive health rights, responsible parenthood and sexual behaviour and violence prevention, as well as to preventing early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.[157]
To comply with the Maputo Protocol, Mozambique must also ensure that education institutions, whether government, private or faith-based schools, include sexual and reproductive rights content in their school programs.[158]
 

Acknowledgments

This report was written by Elin Martinez, senior researcher in the Children’s Rights Division, and Zenaida Machado, senior researcher in the Africa Division, at Human Rights Watch. Research for this report was conducted by Sandra Manuel Soares, an independent consultant based in Maputo, Mozambique, Elin Martinez, and Zenaida Machado.

The report was edited by Juliane Kippenberg, Children’s Rights Division associate director. James Ross, legal and policy director, and Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, acting program director, provided legal and program reviews. Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz, deputy director in the Africa Division; Bede Sheppard, deputy director in the Children’s Rights Division; Betty Kabari, researcher in the Women’s Rights Division; and Matt McConnell, researcher in the Economic Justice and Rights Division, provided expert reviews. Production assistance was provided by Joya Fadel, Children’s Rights Division associate, and Travis Carr, publications officer. The report was translated by Diana Tarré and vetted by André Baptista.

We would like to thank Dr. Francesca Salvi, Assistant Professor in Education, University of Nottingham; experts at national and international nongovernmental organizations, civil society organizations and platforms, including Clotilde Noa, Action Aid Mozambique and Santos Simione, on behalf of the Coligaçao para Eliminação das Uniões Prematuras; Sandra Gusmão Martins and Stephanie von Wogau, UNICEF Mozambique; and representatives from the Ministry of Education and Human Development’s directorate for transversal issues.

This report is dedicated to the late Agnes M. Odhiambo, senior researcher in the Women’s Rights Division, who spent her career fighting for a better future for women and girls across sub-Saharan Africa and was a tireless advocate for girls’ education in Africa.

 

 

[1] World Bank, Project Information Document (PID): Improving Learning and Empowering Girls in Mozambique (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2020),

https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/148201614281094461/pdf/Project-Information-Document-Improving-Learning-and-Empowering-Girls-in-Mozambique-P172657.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023), p. 10.

[2] United Nations Mozambique, Common Country Analysis, August 2021,

https://minio.dev.devqube.io/uninfo-production-main/28bd535f-5690-43ca-a62e-2e935858b139_Final_CCA_Mozambique_-_August_2021.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023), p. 5.

[3] UN Population Fund (UNFPA), “Country programme document for Mozambique,” U.N. Doc. DP/FPA/CPD/MOZ/10, December 8, 2021, https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/portal-document/ENG%20-%20DP.FPA_.CPD_.MOZ_.10%20-%20Mozambique%20CPD%20-%202022%20FRS%20-%20FINAL%20-%208Dec21_0.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023).

[4] World Bank, “Gender Data Portal: Mozambique,” (webpage) [n.d.], https://genderdata.worldbank.org/countries/mozambique (accessed January 18, 2024); UNFPA, “World Population Dashboard: Mozambique,” (webpage) [n.d.], https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population/MZ (accessed January 18, 2024), and “East and Southern Africa,” (webpage) [n.d.], https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population-dashboard (accessed January 18, 2024);

UNFPA, “Adolescent Pregnancy,” (webpage) [n.d.],

https://esaro.unfpa.org/en/topics/adolescent-pregnancy#:~:text=Context%20in%20East%20and%20Southern%20Africa&text=Consequently%2C%20adolescent%20pregnancy%20rates%20in,2022%2C%20from%205.9%20in%201994 (accessed November 8, 2023).

[5] Section 27, “Abortion in East and Southern Africa: Access to Termination of Pregnancy Within East and Southern African Countries,” 2024, https://abortion-esa.section27.org.za/ (accessed August 25, 2022).

[6] Ipas, “In recent penal code review, Mozambique recognizes legal right to abortion,” March 26, 2020, https://www.ipas.org/news/in-recent-penal-code-review-mozambique-recognizes-legal-right-to-abortion/ (accessed November 8, 2023).

[7] World Health Organization and Human Reproduction Programme, “Global Abortion Policies Database: Country Profile: Mozambique,” last updated May 17, 2022,

https://abortion-policies.srhr.org/country/mozambique/ (accessed November 8, 2023); Revised Penal Code of Mozambique, Law No. 24/2019, art. 169 (1) (b).

[8] Coligaçao para Eliminação das Uniões Prematuras, Report on the human rights situation of girls in Mozambique: The nexus between girls’ economic, social and cultural situation, early or forced marriages, early pregnancy, and COVID-19, October 2020, https://mozambique.savethechildren.net/sites/mozambique.savethechildren.net/files/library/CECAP%20Tematic%20Report%20to%20III%C2%BA%20Cycle%20of%20UPR_en_1.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023). Mozambique’s investment in sexual and reproductive rights was hard-hit by the United States’ regressive “global gag rule,” or Mexico City Policy, in place during the administration of former US President Donald Trump. Non-governmental organizations, including Mozambique’s largest reproductive health organization, AMODEFA (Associação Moçambicana para o Desenvolvimento da Família or Mozambican Association for Family Development), lost vital funding to advance sexual and reproductive health services. Jessica Abrahams, “Mozambique’s teenage pregnancy challenge,” [n.d.], DevEx,

https://devex.shorthandstories.com/mozambique-teenage-pregnancy-challenge/index.html (accessed November 8, 2023); International Planned Parenthood Federation, “Discussing the impact of the Global Gag Rule in Mozambique,” (webpage) [n.d.],

https://www.ippf.org/blogs/discussing-impact-global-gag-rule-mozambique (accessed September 7, 2022); “Trump and the Ethics of Foreign Aid,” Al Jazeera, December 6, 2017,

https://www.aljazeera.com/program/people-power/2017/12/6/trump-and-the-ethics-of-foreign-aid (accessed November 8, 2023).

[9] Coligaçao para Eliminação das Uniões Prematuras reports that, “[u]nfortunately, the 2020 approved MOH [Ministry of Health] strategy on school health based and adolescent’s health failed to emphasize the importance of long acting reversible contraceptive methods for adolescents, having been excluded from the school package too. This represents a backlash in terms of adolescents sexual and reproductive rights in the country.” Report on the human rights situation of girls in Mozambique: The nexus between girls’ economic, social and cultural situation, early or forced marriages, early pregnancy, and COVID-19, para 5.2. Chandra-Mouli et al., “Programa Geração Biz, Mozambique: how did this adolescent health initiative grow from a pilot to a national programme, and what did it achieve?” Reproductive Health 2015, 12:12, doi:10.1186/1742-4755-12-12;

Family Planning 2030, “Government Partner: Mozambique,” (webpage) [n.d.], https://fp2030.org/mozambique (accessed November 8, 2023); Ministério da Saúde, “Assunto: Convite para a Parceria FP2030,” Informaçao Proposta No. 573/100/2022,

https://wordpress.fp2030.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/FP2030-Commitment-Mozambique_0.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023); República de Moçambique, “Estratégia Nacional de Prevençao e Combate dos Casamentos Prematuros en Moçambique (2016 – 2019), December 2015 (copy on file with Human Rights Watch); Jovenaldo Ngovene, “Moçambique: Mulheres desconhecem direito ao aborto,” Deutsche Welle, September 28, 2023,

https://www.dw.com/pt-002/mo%C3%A7ambique-mulheres-desconhecem-direito-ao-aborto/a-66947648 (accessed November 8, 2023).

[10] Girls Not Brides, Child Marriage Atlas – Mozambique, [n.d.],

https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/learning-resources/child-marriage-atlas/atlas/mozambique/ (accessed November 8, 2023).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Moçambique, Boletim da República, Lei no. 19/2019, Lei de Prevenção e Combate às Uniões Prematuras, October 22, 2019, arts. 7, 8.

[13] Moçambique Ministerio da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano, “Plano Estratégico da Educaçao 2020 – 2029,” May 2020, https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/document/file/2020-22-Mozambique-ESP.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023), p. 26.

[14] Instituto Nacional de Estatística and UNFPA, “Educaçao em Moçambique,” June 2023, https://mozambique.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/educacao_20-07_1.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023).

[15] World Bank, “Data – Mozambique,” (webpage) [n.d.], https://data.worldbank.org/country/MZ (accessed January 9, 2024).

[16] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics, SDG4 March 2022 Release (Mozambique), (webpage) [n.d.], http://sdg4-data.uis.unesco.org/ (accessed January 9, 2024).

[17] Ministerio da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano, “Plano Estratégico da Educaçao 2020 – 2029,” pp. 26, 67; Instituto Nacional de Estatística and UNFPA, “Educaçao em Moçambique,” June 2023.

[18] Based on Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data from 2011. Ministério da Saúde (MISAU), Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE), and ICF International (ICFI), Moçambique Inquérito Demográfico e de Saúde 2011 (Calverton, Maryland, USA: MISAU, INE e ICFI: 2013), https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR266/FR266.pdf (accessed January 15, 2024); in UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) et al., Child Marriage and Adolescent Pregnancy in Mozambique: Policy Brief (Maputo, Mozambique: UNICEF, 2015),

https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/pdf/en_moz_child_marriage_aw-low-res.pdf/ (accessed January 15, 2024).

[19] World Bank, Project Information Document (PID): Improving Learning and Empowering Girls in Mozambique, p. 11.

[20] “Sex for grades: Sexual violence in Mozambique schools is ‘scandalous’ – NGO,” Club of Mozambique, January 24, 2020, https://clubofmozambique.com/news/sex-for-grades-sexual-violence-in-mozambique-schools-is-scandalous-ngo-150877/ (accessed December 5, 2023); Sitoi Lutxeque, “Como prevenir o assédio sexual nas escolas moçambicanas?” Deutsche Welle, December 21, 2016,

https://www.dw.com/pt-002/como-prevenir-o-ass%C3%A9dio-sexual-nas-escolas-mo%C3%A7ambicanas/a-36860372 (accessed December 5, 2023). See also, Centro de Aprendizagem e Capacitaçao da Sociedade Civil Moçambique, Percepção dos estudantes sobre o assédio sexual nas Escolas Secundárias: Usando o Cartão do Reporte do Cidadão, September 2017, https://www.cescmoz.org/index.php/publicacoes/publicacoes-2/estudos/estudo-sobre-a-percepcao-dos-estudantes-sobre-o-assedio-sexual-nas-escolas-secundarias (accessed January 9, 2024).

[21] World Bank, Project Information Document (PID): Improving Learning and Empowering Girls in Mozambique, p. 11. See also, Mozambique Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action, Perfil de Género de Moçambique (Gender Profile in Mozambique), February 2016, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/perfil_de_genero_de_mocambique.pdf (accessed January 16, 2024).

[22] Moçambique Ministerio da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano, Despacho No. 435/GM/MINEDH/2018, December 13, 2018 (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[23] Portal do Governo do Moçambique, “Nos últimos três anos: Mais de mil raparigas abandonaram a escola devido a gravidez precoce,” June 7, 2019,

https://www.portaldogoverno.gov.mz/index.php/por/Imprensa/PR-recebe-primeira-ministra-da-Italia-Giorgia-Meloni/Nos-ultimos-tres-anos-Mais-de-mil-raparigas-abandonaram-a-escola-devido-a-gravidez-precoce (accessed January 9, 2024); “Moçambique:cerca de 15 mil raparigas fora de escola em 5 anos,” Radio France Internationale, February 2, 2019, https://www.rfi.fr/pt/20190210-mocambique-mais-de-14-mil-raparigas-abandonaram-escola-em-5-anos (accessed January 9, 2024).

[24] “Indice crescente de gravidez preocupa sector da saúde,” Jornal Noticias, January 30, 2019, https://www.newsaiep.com/moz_news/indice-crescente-de-gravidez-preocupa-sector-da-saude/ (accessed January 9, 2024).

[25] Ministério da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano, Plano Estratégico da Educaçao 2020 – 2029, May 2020, p. 89.

[26] Mozambique Education Cluster, Save the Children, and UNICEF, “Education Cluster HRP 2022 Overview/Factsheet: January – February 2022,” February 25, 2022, available at https://reliefweb.int/report/mozambique/education-cluster-hrp-2022-overview-factsheet-january-2022-february-2022 (accessed January 16, 2024).

[27] Universidade Pedagógica Moçambique and UNICEF, Análise Aprofundada dos Factores da Desisténcia Escolar no Ensino Primário em Moçambique: Resultados da Avaliação de 2021 (Maputo, Mozambique: UNICEF, 2022), https://www.unicef.org/mozambique/media/5151/file/An%C3%A1lise%20aprofundada%20dos%20factores%20da%20desist%C3%AAncia%20escolar%20no%20ensino%20prim%C3%A1rio%20em%20Mo%C3%A7ambique.pdf (accessed January 16, 2024), pp. 81-83.

[28] República de Moçambique, Boletim da República, I SÉRIE Número 61, Decreto Presidencial No. 11/2020, March 30, 2020, available at https://www.portaldogoverno.gov.mz/por/Declaracao-do-Estado-de-Emergencia/Decreto-Presidencial (accessed January 9, 2024).

[29] Cristiana Soares, “Moçambique retoma aulas presenciais e treinos de Moçambola,” Radio France Internationale, March 4, 2021, https://www.rfi.fr/pt/mo%C3%A7ambique/20210304-mo%C3%A7ambique-retoma-aulas-presenciais-e-treinos-de-mo%C3%A7ambola (accessed January 9, 2024).

[30] Universidade Pedagógica Moçambique and UNICEF, Rapid Assessment of Students’ Learning during COVID-19 (Maputo, Mozambique: UNICEF, 2021), https://www.unicef.org/mozambique/media/4086/file/Rapid%20assessment%20of%20students%E2%80%99%20learning%20during%20COVID-19.pdf (accessed November 30, 2023).

[31] Coligaçao para Eliminaçao das Uniões Prematuras, Report on the human rights situation of girls in Mozambique: The nexus between girls’ economic, social and cultural situation, early or forced marriages, early pregnancy, and COVID-19.

[32] Universidade Pedagógica Moçambique and UNICEF, Análise Aprofundada dos Factores da Desisténcia Escolar no Ensino Primário em Moçambique: Resultados da Avaliação de 2021, pp. 81-83; Rapid Assessment of Students’ Learning during COVID-19, pp. 55-56.

[33] Ibid.

[34] MIET Africa, The Impact of COVID-19 on Adolescents and Young People in the Southern African Development Community Region (South Africa: MIET Africa, 2021),

https://mietafrica.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/REPORT-Impact_COVID_19_AYP_SADCRegional.pdf, pp. 58-62.

[35] UNICEF Mozambique, “Os impactos da COVID-19 nas crianças en Moçambique,” COVID-19 Nota Política, June 2020, https://www.unicef.org/mozambique/relatorios/os-impactos-da-covid-19-nas-crian%C3%A7as-em-mo%C3%A7ambique (accessed January 9, 2024); Spotlight Initiative, “In Mozambique, providers prepare for spike in gender-based violence as pandemic spreads,” April 8, 2020,

https://spotlightinitiative.org/news/mozambique-providers-prepare-spike-gender-based-violence-pandemic-spreads (January 9, 2024).

[36] Romeu da Silva, “Aulas à distância para menores do ensino noturno criticada,” July 19, 2020, Deutsche Welle,

https://www.dw.com/pt-002/mo%C3%A7ambique-aulas-%C3%A0-dist%C3%A2ncia-para-menores-do-ensino-noturno-criticada/a-54234340 (accessed January 9, 2024).

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with Custódia, 18, Maputo province, November 18, 2021.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Human Rights Watch interview with Verónica, 18, Nampula, November 4, 2021.

[40] See, Human Rights Watch, “Mozambique: Hundreds of Women, Girls Abducted,” December 7, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/07/mozambique-hundreds-women-girls-abducted; “Mozambique: Civilians Prevented from Fleeing Fighting,” August 6, 2021,

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/08/06/mozambique-civilians-prevented-fleeing-fighting.

[41] International Organization for Migration (IOM), Displacement Tracking Matrix Mozambique – Mobility Tracking Assessment Report 17 (Maputo: IOM, 2022), https://dtm.iom.int/reports/mozambique-mobility-tracking-assessment-report-17-november-2022?close=true (accessed January 9, 2024), p. 3.

[42] CARE International, Conflict Sensitive Rapid Gender-Analysis: Cabo Delgado, Mozambique (Geneva, Switzerland: CARE International, 2022), available at https://reliefweb.int/report/mozambique/conflict-sensitive-rapid-gender-analysis-cabo-delgado-mozambique-april-2022 (accessed January 9, 2024).

[43] “Cabo Delgado quer inverter efeitos da gravidez precoce no acceso à educaçao,” Observador, September 18, 2023, https://observador.pt/2023/09/18/cabo-delgado-quer-inverter-efeitos-da-gravidez-precoce-no-acesso-a-educacao/ (accessed January 9, 2024); Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE) and ICF, Inquérito Demográfico e de Saúde em Moçambique 2022–23 (Maputo, Moçambique and Rockville, Maryland, USA: INE and ICF, 2023),

https://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/PR150/PR150.pdf (accessed January 9, 2024), p. 13.

[44] Plan International, “Covid-19: The Impact on Girls,” April 23, 2020,

https://plan-international.org/publications/covid-19-the-impact-on-girls/ (accessed January 16, 2024); World Vision International, COVID-19 Aftershocks: Access Denied, August 2020,

https://www.wvi.org/sites/default/files/2020-08/Covid19%20Aftershocks_Access%20Denied_small.pdf (accessed January 9, 2024).

[45] Plan International, MEESA Report: An Evaluation of Adolescent Girls and Young Women’s Continued Access to Education During Covid-19 in the Middle East, East, and Southern Africa, March 2020 – March 2021 (Harare, Zimbabwe: Plan International, 2023),

https://plan-international.org/uploads/2022/01/messa_report_2021_final.pdf (accessed January 9, 2024).

[46] Ortiz Correa et al., Drivers of Primary School Drop Out in Mozambique: Longitudinal assessment of school dropout in 2019 (Florence, Italy: UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, 2022),

https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/1475-drivers-of-primary-school-dropout-in-mozambique_longitudinal-assessment-of-school-dropout-in-2019.html (accessed January 9, 2024), p. 35.

[47] Ministerio da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano, Despacho No. 39/GM/2003, December 5, 2003 (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[48] Save the Children Mozambique, “Posicionamiento da Sociedade Civil Sobre o Despacho Ministerial No. 39/GM/2003 do Ministéri da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano,” October 12, 2018, https://mozambique.savethechildren.net/news/posicionamento-da-sociedade-civil-sobre-o-despacho-ministerial-n%C2%BA39gm2003-do-minist%C3%A9rio-da (accessed January 9, 2024).

[49] Women and Law in Southern Africa, “O Despacho no.39 foi revogado. E depois?”, May 31, 2019, https://www.wlsa.org.mz/o-despacho-39-foi-revogado-e-depois/ (accessed January 9, 2024).

[50] Human Rights Watch interview with Flôrencia, 21, Maputo province, November 24, 2021.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with teacher, Maputo city, July 20, 2023.

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Maputo city, July 20, 2023.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview with Clotilde Noa, Right to Education Manager, Action Aid Mozambique, September 12, 2022.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with Agira, 18, Nampula, November 4, 2021.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with Laura, 19, Maputo city, August 3, 2023.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Adosinda, 19, Maputo city, August 2, 2023.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview with Isilda, 20, Maputo province, November 16, 2021.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Benilde, 24, Maputo province, October 12, 2021.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview with Muanacha, 21, Nampula city, November 4, 2021.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with Berta, 20, Nampula city, November 5, 2021.

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with Margareth, 23, Nampula city, November 4, 2021.

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Guilo, 21, Nampula city, November 1, 2021.

[63] Ministerio da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano, “Plano Estratégico da Educaçao 2020 – 2029,” p. 42.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with Celeste, 19, Maputo province, October 19, 2021.

[65] Human Rights Watch interview with Orla, 18, Maputo City, 2023.

[66] Human Rights Watch WhatsApp interview with Santos Simione, Executive Director, Associaçao Moçambicana para o Desenvolvimento da Familia (AMODEFA), October 12, 2022; Human Rights Watch interview with school principal, Maputo city, July 20, 2023.

[67] Human Rights Watch phone interview with a teacher, Beira, August 11, 2023.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with secondary school director, Maputo city, August 16, 2023.

[69] Human Rights Watch interview with Leonor, 21, Maputo province, October 17, 2021.

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with Dora, 16, Maputo province, November 18, 2021.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with female primary school teacher, location withheld, October 20, 2021.

[72] Human Rights Watch WhatsApp interview with Santos Simione, Executive Director, Associaçao Moçambicana para o Desenvolvimento da Familia (AMODEFA), October 12, 2022.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with Custódia, 18, Maputo province, November 18, 2021.

[74] Human Rights Watch interview with Muanacha, 20, Nampula city, November 4, 2021.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with male secondary school teacher, location withheld, October 28, 2021.

[76] Human Rights Watch Teams interview with José Luis Sousa Manjate, Director of Transversal Issues, Ministry of Education and Human Development, February 6, 2024.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview with Amina, 22, Nampula province, November 3, 2021.

[78] Human Rights Watch interview with Dinércia, 17, Maputo city, November 19, 2021.

[79] Mozambique’s Law 18 of 2018 on its National Education System only makes primary education free. A Council of Ministers sets the budget related to compulsory education. Lei No. 18/2018 of December 28, arts. 8(1)-(2), 12(4), and 13(3).

[80] Human Rights Watch interview with Lidia, 23, Maputo province, November 24, 2021.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Aida, 18, Maputo province, October 17, 2021.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with Guilo, 21, Nampula city, November 1, 2021.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Virginia, 20, Maputo province, October 15, 2021.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with Apsínia, 16, Maputo province, November 24, 2021.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with Constância, 19, Maputo province, November 24, 2021.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with Célia, 17, Nampula province, November 3, 2021.

[87] Human Rights Watch interview with Lídia, 23, Maputo province, November 24, 2021.

[88] World Bank, Project Information Document (PID): Improving Learning and Empowering Girls in Mozambique (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2020),

https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/148201614281094461/pdf/Project-Information-Document-Improving-Learning-and-Empowering-Girls-in-Mozambique-P172657.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023), p. 8.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with Neide, 18, Nampula city, November 4, 2021.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Ministerio da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano, Despacho No. 435/GM/MINEDH/2018, December 13, 2018 (copy on file with Human Rights Watch).

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with public primary school teacher, location withheld, October 20, 2021.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview with public secondary school teacher, location withheld, October 28, 2021.

[94] Ibid.

[95] Human Rights Watch Teams meeting with José Luis Sousa Manjate, Director of Transversal Issues, Ministry of Education and Human Development, February 6, 2024.

[96] See Human Rights Watch, “Africa: Rights Progress for Pregnant Students,” September 29, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/09/30/africa-rights-progress-pregnant-students; “A Brighter Future: Empowering Pregnant Girls and Adolescent Mothers to Stay in School,” Human Rights Watch index, August 29, 2022, https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2022/08/29/brighter-future-empowering-pregnant-girls-and-adolescent.

[97] In April 2023, Sierra Leone’s revised Basic and Senior Education Act also embedded policy protections for pregnant girls and parent learners in national law, including protections from discrimination in enrollment and treatment in educational institutions. See Human Rights Watch and Purposeful, Education for all girls in Sierra Leone: Moving from Policy and Legislation to Practice, May 2023, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2023/05/Education%20for%20all%20girls%20in%20Sierra%20Leone%20-%20Moving%20from%20Policy%20and%20Legislation%20to%20Practice%20.pdf, p. 3.

[98] Ibid. Human Rights Watch has only conducted research on the respect for girls and women’s rights after the implementation of these continuation policies in Sierra Leone.

[99] Human Rights Watch, Leave No Girl Behind in Africa: Discrimination in Education against Pregnant Girls and Adolescent Mothers (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2018),

https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/06/14/leave-no-girl-behind-africa/discrimination-education-against-pregnant-girls-and#2904, pp. 30-32.

[100] Human Rights Watch, “Across Africa, Many Young Mothers Face Education Barriers,” August 30, 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/08/30/across-africa-many-young-mothers-face-education-barriers.

[101] See Gabon’s Decree No. 2089/PM/MFPEPF of November 19, 2004, on the creation and operation of nurseries. Kenya’s 2020 National Guidelines for School Re-Entry in Early Learning and Basic Education stipulate that “the pregnant learner shall be put in a guidance and counselling programme by the guidance and counselling teacher, or through referral to appropriate services. The school and the parents/guardians, in collaboration with a nearby health facility, should ensure she has access to age-appropriate reproductive health services such as antenatal care.” Kenya Ministry of Education, National Guidelines for School Re-Entry in Early Learning and Basic Education, 2020, section 3.2, pp. 19-20. Sierra Leone’s National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools stipulates that schools should “make provision for lactating mothers based on the principles of dignity and choice. The school may either offer the pupil an adapted timetable so that they can leave the school premises to nurse or provide on-site facilities for breast-feeding. Such facilities should offer as comfortable and private a setting as the school building permits.” Sierra Leone Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools, March 2021, section 3.3.3, p. 43. All policies cited are available at Human Rights Watch, “A Brighter Future: Empowering Pregnant Girls and Adolescent Mothers to Stay in School.”

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with Célia, 17, Nampula province, November 3, 2021.

[103] Human Rights Watch, Leave No Girl Behind in Africa: Discrimination in Education against Pregnant Girls and Adolescent Mothers, pp. 6-11.

[104] See Human Rights Watch, “A Brighter Future: Empowering Pregnant Girls and Adolescent Mothers to Stay in School.”

[105] See Forum of African Women Educationalists, Policy Brief: An Overview of Existing Policies and Practice on Re-entry Policies for Teenage Mothers in Malawi; Policy Brief: An Overview of Existing Policies and Practice on Re-entry Policies for Teenage Mothers in Namibia; and Policy Brief: An Overview of Existing Policies and Practice on Re-entry Policies for Teenage Mothers in Senegal, 2021, available at

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15c_tJkLYPPdoJnppaVlr92MrvlltZOx7 (accessed January 9, 2024).

[106] Human Rights Watch interview with public primary school teacher, location withheld, October 20, 2021.

[107] Human Rights Watch interview with Aida, 18, Maputo province, October 17, 2021.

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with Dort, 16, Maputo province, October 17, 2021.

[109] Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education of Sierra Leone, National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools, March 2021, pp. 26–27.

[110] Massoumeh Mengali et al., “Exploring the Challenges of Adolescent Mothers from Their Life Experiences in the Transition to Motherhood: A Qualitative Study,” 2017 11(3) Journal of family & reproductive health , pp. 165-173, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6045691/ (accessed January 17, 2024); Girls Not Brides, ”Supporting Married Girls, Adolescent Mothers and Girls who are Pregnant,” December 2021, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/documents/1666/Supporting_married_girls_adolescent_mothers_and_girls_who_are_pregnant_Thematic_brief.pdf (accessed January 9, 2024). (accessed January 9, 2024).

[111] Ministério da Educaçao e Desenvolvimento Humano, “Plano Estratégico da Educaçao 2020 – 2029,” May 2020, https://www.globalpartnership.org/sites/default/files/document/file/2020-22-Mozambique-ESP.pdf (accessed November 8, 2023), pp. 56–57.

[112] Ibid.

[113] Ibid.

[114] UNICEF, A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education (New York: UNICEF, 2019), https://www.unicef.org/media/57926/file/A-world-ready-to-learn-advocacy-brief-2019.pdf (accessed January 9, 2024), pp. 58–63.

[115] Human Rights Watch interviews with Anuária, 18, Maputo province, October 17, 2021; Beatriz, 20, Maputo province, October 14, 2021; Virginia, 20, Maputo province, October 15, 2021; Abiba, 22, Nampula city, November 1, 2021; Agira, 18, Nampula city, November 4, 2021; Elsa, 21, Maputo province, November 18, 2021; and Flôrencia, 21, Maputo province, November 24, 2021.

[116] Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), December 7, 2013, available at https://healtheducationresources.unesco.org/sites/default/files/resources/ESACommitmentFINALAffirmedon7thDecember.pdf (accessed December 4, 2023).

[117] Ministerio da Sáude, Breves consideraçaoes em relação a Estratégia Nacional de Saúde Escolar e dos Adolescentes e Jovens, December 2018, https://mz.usembassy.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/182/MISAU_Estrategia_saude_escolar.pdf (accessed September 28, 2022). The government’s secondary school curricular plan includes some mentions of sexuality and reproductive health in its framing of comprehensive sexuality education but provides minimal guidance to teachers. See Ministério de Educação e Desenvolvimento Humano, Plano Curricular do Ensino Secundário (PCES), June 2022, https://www.mined.gov.mz/assets/docs/plano_curricular_es.pdf (accessed December 4, 2023).

[118] UNESCO, “Early and unintended pregnancy: recommendations for the education sector,” 2017, https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000248418 (accessed December 4, 2023).

[119] UNESCO et al., International technical guidance on sexuality education: an evidence-informed approach (Paris, France: UNESCO, 2018), https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000260770 (accessed December 4, 2023).

[120] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, “General recommendation no. 36 (2017) on the rights of girls and women to education,” November 27, 2017, UN Doc. CEDAW/C/GC/36, available at https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fGC%2f36&Lang=en (accessed December 4, 2023), para. 68.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with Amina, 22, Nampula province, November 3, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with Cristina, 22, Maputo province, November 24, 2021.

[122] Human Rights Watch interview with Celeste, 19, Maputo province, October 19, 2021.

[123] Human Rights Watch interview with Virginia, 20, Maputo province, October 15, 2021.

[124] Human Rights Watch with Benilde, 24, Maputo province, October 12, 2021; Human Rights Watch interview with Isilda, 20, Maputo province, November 16, 2021.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with Celeste, 19, Maputo province, October 19, 2021.

[126] Human Rights Watch Teams interview with José Luis Sousa Manjate, Director of Transversal Issues, Ministry of Education and Human Development, February 6, 2024.

[127] Human Rights Watch WhatsApp interview with Santos Simione, Executive Director, Associaçao Moçambicana para o Desenvolvimento da Familia (AMODEFA), October 12, 2022.

[128] Section 27, “Abortion in East and Southern Africa: Access to Termination of Pregnancy Within East and Southern African Countries,” [n.d.], https://abortion-esa.section27.org.za/ (accessed December 5, 2023).

[129] Ipas, “In recent penal code review, Mozambique recognizes legal right to abortion,” March 26, 2020, https://www.ipas.org/news/in-recent-penal-code-review-mozambique-recognizes-legal-right-to-abortion/ (accessed December 5, 2023).

[130] Coligaçao para Eliminaçao das Uniões Prematuras, Report on the human rights situation of girls in Mozambique: The nexus between girls’ economic, social and cultural situation, early or forced marriages, early pregnancy, and COVID-19, October 2020, https://mozambique.savethechildren.net/sites/mozambique.savethechildren.net/files/library/CECAP%20Tematic%20Report%20to%20III%C2%BA%20Cycle%20of%20UPR_en_1.pdf (accessed December 5, 2023).

[131] World Health Organization and Human Reproduction Programme, “Global Abortion Policies Database: Country Profile: Mozambique,” last updated May 17, 2022,

https://abortion-policies.srhr.org/country/mozambique/ (accessed December 5, 2023); Revised Penal Code of Mozambique, Law No. 24/2019, art. 169 (1) (b).

[132] See Human Rights Watch, “Submission by Human Rights Watch to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy,” October 2020,

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/19/submission-human-rights-watch-un-special-rapporteur-right-privacy.

[133] See, for example, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, concluding observations on Indonesia, UN Doc. CRC/C/IDN/CO/3-4 (2014); Venezuela, UN Doc. CRC/C/VEN/CO/3-5 (2014); and Morocco, UN Doc. CRC/C/MAR/CO/3-4 (2014).

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with Celeste, 19, Maputo province, October 19, 2021.

[135] Coligaçao para Eliminaçao das Uniões Prematuras, Report on the human rights situation of girls in Mozambique: The nexus between girls’ economic, social and cultural situation, early or forced marriages, early pregnancy, and COVID-19.

[136] In the absence of health centers or sufficient resources, many people in Mozambique resort to homemade abortion remedies as alternatives. Among some of the things that are believed to have the potential to cause abortion are certain herb teas and strong beverages such as Coca-Cola, coffee, and others.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with Gilda, 21, Maputo province, November 16, 2021.

[138] Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), November 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force September 2, 1990, ratified by Mozambique on April 26, 1994, arts. 28 and 29; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, July 11, 1990, Organization of African Unity Doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990) (entered into force November 29, 1999), art. 11. Mozambique ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on July 15, 1998.

[139] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 13, “The Right to Education (Art. 13),” E/C.12/1999/10 (1999), para. 6 (a)-(d).

[140] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), December 16, 1966, 993 U.N.T.S. 3 (entered into force January 3, 1976), art. 13(2)(b); CRC, art. 28(1)(b); African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, art. 11(3)(b); African Youth Charter, July 2, 2006 (entered into force August 8, 2009), ratified by Mozambique on July 29, 2008, art. 13(1) and art. 13(4)(b).

[141] According to the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All, “sound basic education is fundamental to the strengthening of higher levels of education and of scientific and technological literacy and capacity and thus to self-reliant development.” Basic education “should be provided to all children, youth and adults… [and] should be expanded and consistent measures must be taken to reduce disparities.” World Conference on Education for All, World Declaration on Education for All and Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs, Jomtien, Thailand, March 1990, http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001275/127583e.pdf, art. 3 (1)-(2).

[142] UNESCO, Convention against Discrimination in Education, December 14, 1960 (entered into force May 22, 1962), ratified by Mozambique on November 10, 2023.

[143] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 20: Non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights’ (art. 2, para. 2, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), E/C.12/GC/20 (2009), available at https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/659980, para. 7.

[144] Ibid., para. 10(b).

[145] African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, arts. 21(2), 11(3)(e), and 11(6).

[146] African Youth Charter, art. 13(1) and art. 13(4)(b).

[147] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the

Child, “Joint General Comment on Ending Child Marriage,” 2017,

https://www.acerwc.africa/sites/default/files/2022-09/Joint_General_Comment_ACERWC-ACHPR_Ending_Child_Marriage_March_2018_English.pdf (accessed January 16, 2024), para. 31.

[148] African Union, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), adopted by the 2nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, Maputo, July 11, 2003 (entered into force November 25, 2005), ratified by Mozambique on December 9, 2005, art. 14; “Joint General Comment on Ending Child Marriage,” para. 37.

[149] Maputo Protocol, arts. 12(1)(a) and (c).

[150] CESCR General Comment No. 14 on the right to the highest attainable standard of health (article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), UN Doc. E/C.12/2000/4 (2000); and CESCR General Comment No. 22 on the right to sexual and reproductive health (article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/22 (2016). The Committee on the Rights of the Child also notes that adolescents’ ability “to access relevant information can have a significant impact on equality.” See UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), “General Comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence,” UN Doc. CRC/C/GC/20 (2016), para. 47.

[151] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General comment No. 15 (2013) on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health (art. 24),” April 17, 2013, CRC/C/GC/15, para. 56.

[152] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence,” para. 59.

[153] Ibid, para. 60.

[154] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “General Comment No. 2 on Article 14.1 (a), (b), (c) and (f) and Article 14. 2 (a) and (c) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa,” https://www.maputoprotocol.up.ac.za/images/files/documents/general_comments2/achpr_instr_general_comment2_rights_of_women_in_africa_eng.pdf (accessed January 16, 2024), para. 25.

[155] CESCR, “General Comment No. 22 (2016) on the right to sexual and reproductive health (article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)”, para. 9. See also Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence”, para. 61.

[156] See Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence,” para. 47. See also, CESCR, “General Comment No. 22 (2016) on the right to sexual and reproductive health (article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights),” para. 9.

[157] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “General Comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence,” para. 61.

[158] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “General Comment No. 2 on Article 14.1 (a), (b), (c) and (f) and Article 14. 2 (a) and (c) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa,” paras. 51 and 52.

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