AFRICAN Union goodwill ambassador on child marriage Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is tomorrow set to address civil society groups from the region in Victoria Falls on the destructive effects of child marriages.
Regional civil society groups will be meeting under the auspices of the Sadc People’s Summit which will run concurrently with the 34th Sadc Heads of States Summit.
Gumbonzvanda was invited to the summit by Plan International as part of the campaign to force regional leaders to enact laws than stop child marriages.
In a statement, Plan Zimbabwe programme support manager Zvidzai Chidhakwa said: “The upcoming Sadc People’s Summit is an important opportunity to popularise the child marriage campaign and lobby for the recognition of child marriage as a critical development issue in the region which needs to be addressed urgently.”
Some of the factors cited as contributing to child marriages include poverty, gender inequality and lack of educational and employment opportunities, reinforced by deeply entrenched social and cultural norms and lack of protection of children’s rights.
Plan International is leading a global campaign called “Because I Am A Girl” which promotes girls’ rights and education around the world.
Meanwhile, traditional leaders in Manicaland last week pledged to play a pivotal role in ending child marriages especially in their areas of jurisdiction.
This comes at a time Zimbabwe has been ranked among the world’s 41 countries with the worst records of child marriages.
Speaking during a provincial chiefs’ meeting on ending child marriages, Chief Zimunya said: “I have a case in my area where a 75-year-old man bedded an 11-year-old minor. As a chief, I moved in and alerted the police, but the man was released on condition that the two had had consensual sex.”
He added: “I believe as chiefs we can play a bigger role in ending this practice.
“There are many ways in which we can conscentise our subjects and also working with the law enforcement agencies.”
Chief Makumbe said: “The practice of early child marriages is still rampant in some churches, but as chiefs, our role to stop the practice is limited because some churches do not listen to us. In my area, I have been calling upon the police to help us enforce the law.”
Mutare lawyer Memory Mandingwa said there was need to urgently realign the Marriages Act with the new Constitution to clarify when a person could be considered as legally married.