TRADITIONAL leaders in Masvingo have bemoaned the rise in child marriages saying the practice was destroying cultural values and the general welfare of the girl child.
BY HAZVINEI MWANAKA
The chiefs made the call last Thursday during a workshop organised by the Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development ministry in partnership with Plan International attended by 35 traditional leaders drawn from Masvingo province.
This came as the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) recently released a report in which 31% of Zimbabwean girls under the age of 18 were said to be in forced marriages.
Statistics by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats) showed that 16,3% of local girls were getting married at the age of 15, with the majority pushed into early marriages by various factors, among them poverty, cultural norms and religious practices.
Chief Mukamwi of Murinye area said abuse of technology was a contributing factor to early child marriages.
“We are totally against child marriages because it affects the future of our children. Most of our youths are now exposed to technology which they are abusing,” Chief Mukamwi said.
“This leads to losing of values and culture among our people. In my area, we educate the community on norms and values of Ubuntu and if we follow these values, these harmful practices won’t happen.”
Chief Nyamandi of Gutu added: “Sometimes we just hear of these issues, most people do not want to report them. How can they be assisted? As chiefs we are against early marriages in Zimbabwe. Everybody has a part to play in ending them.”
He, however, castigated older men who took young girls as wives.
Speaking at the same event, Ministry of Health and Child Care reproductive health officer Miriam Washaya said maternal deaths of children under 16 years were on the increase.
“In 2013 in Masvingo, we recorded 56 maternal deaths and 15 were for girls under 16. In 2014, of the 54 maternal deaths we recorded 18 were girls under 16,” Washaya said.
Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development ministry provincial development officer Joseph Mupinga said chiefs as custodians of communities had a key role to play in ending child marriages.
United Nations Children’s Fund report stated that if child marriage was not outlawed by countries practising it by 2030, the number of child brides would grow from 14,2 million in 2010 to 15,1 million girls in 2030.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of girls are married by age 18, which translates to two in every five girls.
There are 41 countries world-wide with a child marriage prevalence rate of 30% or more and of these, 30 were from Africa.