The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) estimates that without progress to prevent child marriages, the number of married girls in Africa will rise from 125 million to 310 million by 2050.
By Phyllis Mbanje
In Zimbabwe the social scourge has been on the agenda for a long time, but is still rampant among poor communities and certain ultra-conservative religious groups.
“Now is the time to take the matter out of the boardrooms to the people in the community. It is essential that while policy issues are being worked out, the community is being readied so that it can be able to make use of the laws,” Beatrice Savadye, director of Real Open Opportunities for Transformation Support, said.
Speaking on the sidelines of a dialogue on child marriage organised by a consortium of organisations like Human Rights Watch, Childline, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association and many others, Savadye said there was need to educate the community so that people were more receptive of the legal provisions.
During the meeting several calls were made to the government to take a more intense role in the area of harmonising the laws with provisions of the new Constitution which has set the marriage age at 18.
There was also consensus that more resources were needed to ensure that community activities were carried out and reached even the most marginalised groups in isolated communities.
“We should prioritise the issue of resources in order to carry through the interventions,” Savadye said.
According to the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), early marriages, even with the seeming consent of the child, violated the basic rights of the child.
The organisation along with other partners is working on ending early marriages through advocating for the updating of the national legislation.
Young girls are especially vulnerable to infection because their bodies are still immature and struggle to withstand the trauma of childbirth.
Research carried out by Human Rights Watch in Malawi, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe has shown that the absence of comprehensive national strategies on child marriage and poor co-ordination among government ministries and agencies undermines the effectiveness of government efforts.