CHILD marriages are rife in Chipinge, with poverty and harmful cultural practices being cited as major drivers for the social scourge that also drives the spread of HIV and Aids, a district official has said.
Chipinge remains one of the country’s hotspots in terms of women and child rights abuse. Case studies from students and sex workers in Checheche show that 70% of girls between the age of 14 and 17 were married. Families are marrying off their teenage daughters to older men with better economic means.
The situation has been worsened by successive droughts since 2005 and the effects of Cyclone Idai, which washed away means of livelihoods.
Speaking during a Platform for Youth and Community Development regional annual general meeting held in Chibuwe on Monday, gender and advocacy officer Cynthia Gwenzi said there were many cases of child marriages in the area and the situation has been worsened by the porous border with South Africa.
“Since Chipinge is close to South Africa, girls are at a great disadvantage. When the so called majoni (local people residing in South Africa) come back home they will be flashing cash and cellphones to attract young girls resulting in such marriages,” said Gwenzi.
She urged youths to preserve their youthhood and not be lured into sexual activities.
“It is a good thing to be proud of what you are. You have to preserve your youthhood and not to rush into marriage. There are lots problems in marriages so take your time. Don’t allow your brothers from SA to jeorpadise your future,” she said. “They will flash money and other things but remain calm and enjoy your youthhood. As girls we have challenges of daily needs which may lure us in fake relationships which will ruin our future,”
Effort Manono from Checheche said child marriages were a problem in his community and called on the government to act urgently.
“Most poor families in Checheche cannot afford to send two or three children to school simultaneously, so they end up prioritising boys ahead of girls. This is the reason why you find so many children being married before they reach the age 18. For example, Checheche High School enrolled 187 Form 4 girls, but only 87 wrote their final exams which is close to 47%, so the government should take urgent measures to curb this crisis,” Manono said.
He also noted that religion was also a major driver behind child marriages as the so-called prophets marry virgin girls purporting to have been given to them by the Holy Spirit.
Another Checheche resident applauded efforts by PYCD, but called for a multi-pronged approach to the problem.
“It is good that something is being done now, but I believe the intensity of the problem calls for a multifaceted approach because some of the victims are not willing to open up about their experiences,” he said.
According to Plan International Zimbabwe, child marriages violate the fundamental human rights of girls and boys, but disproportionately affects girls. Girls are denied their right to a consensual marriage as well as their right to education, protection, economic engagement and reproductive health care.
Through its flagship, Because I am a girl, campaign it has been working with communities including Chipinge to educate traditional leaders, media and the government about the dangers of child marriage.
By Success Majaramhepo