Article on Child Marriages
- Parent Category: ROOT
Child marriage as a vice which has been on the global agenda for years and having a lot of advocacy carried out has now started to yield results. Child brides are often disempowered, lacking autonomy and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. With reports showing that Zimbabwe is among Africa’s leading countries when it comes to child marriages, the Constitutional Court (Concourt)’s ruling on the ban of child marriages marked a new beginning for Zimbabwe. After decades of being robbed of their childhood, girls in Zimbabwe today have been given an opportunity to be just that, ‘girls’ and not brides.
For years now, Tag a Life has been advocating for the ban of child marriages and continues to do so acknowledging that having a provision in the Constitution does not guarantee an automatic eradication of the child marriages, therefore, voices still need to be amplified around this issue. Over the years, the very same men meant to be fathers and custodians of the girl child are the very same men who abuse the girl child, hindering her from experiencing life to its fullest and this has been done mostly in the name of culture and religion, shameful and revolting.
TaLI celebrated through the Victory March on the 3rd of February 2016 for the ban of child marriages in Zimbabwe together with others acknowledging the organisation’s efforts as the Coordinators of Girls Not Brides Zimbabwe chapter for more than 2 years building to the ruling. The organization is part of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe working group on child marriages and progress made thus far includes the production of a position paper and advocacy strategy. Under the Coalition, TaLI has been part of community discussions in the communities and recently, in Mbare, it was interesting for TaLI to discover that child marriages are facilitated by reasons such as teenage pregnancy in that area. A vast number of points were highlighted and these assist in mapping the way forward in the bid to end child marriages.
TaLI has been over the years, implementing programmes that meant to avert child marriages in the in the Midlands Province in Zimbabwe, which itself has 24.7% proportion of female teenage marriages and 15% proportion of child mothers (Zimbabwe 2012, Population Census Results). The proportion of teenage pregnancies and child mothers is high within the districts where TaLI is implementing its programs for example the proportion of teenage pregnancies in Kwekwe, Zvishavane and Shurugwi is 25.7%, 21.6% and 25.6% respectively and the proportion of child mothers is 21.7%, 15.4% and 15.8% for Kwekwe, Zvishavane and Shurugwi respectively. Supported by programmes such as the U S Embassy in Harare and PEPFAR, TaLI has worked with families and communities to address issues of harmful religions and cultural practices that expose girls to vulnerabilities such as child marriages. This is because the families and communities are the custodians of girls’ rights and working with them will ensure girls’ access to their rights. Since 2010, the organisation has been engaging schools and communities in Shurugwi, Kwekwe, Zvishavane and Gweru districts to create awareness on the rights of girls, addressing the issue of child marriages among other issues. To date, the organisation has reached more than 143 000 people both young and old, advocating for girls rights in the communities.
The Concourt ruling certainly marked the beginning of new days for the girls in Zimbabwe however the real work is in transforming that law to benefit the girls and young women, a mammoth task which requires political will, resources and changed communities to make that a reality. There is need for implementation of the law as well as the realignment and repealing of certain sections of the law, which contradict the Child Marriages law. A few sounds of victory or a victory march are not where we should end, there is so much to this journey that has just begun. As an organisation, TaLI remains committed to ending gender based violence, child marriages and increasing opportunities for education for girls and young women. Advocacy for girls and young women’s rights in their families, communities, nation, region and globally remains our focus and we seek ways in increasing partnerships and the ability to deliver such programmes to benefit and improve their lives.