Traditional leaders join fight against child marriages

By Kudzai Muchenjekwa

CHILD rights groups have roped in traditional leaders in Sanyati district to assist in the fight against child marriages following reports that most food-insecure families in the area were marrying off their underage daughters in exchange for food.

The programme, which is being spearheaded by Padare, Gender and Media Connect and Berina Arts, seeks to educate communities to guard against child marriages.

Speaking at the launch of the programme last week, Sanyati district development co-ordinator Amigo Mhlanga said it was high time men stood up and joined women to fight the scourge.
“We want to urge all men to fight child marriages. For long, child marriages have been taking place, but no action has been taken. Now, we want men to help women to fight these men who infringe the rights of young girls,” Mhlanga said.

Chief Neuso described parents who married off underage girls as criminals who should be arrested and prosecuted.

“Those who marry off children and those who marry children are both criminals and should be arrested. It is not an acceptable thing to do, children should be allowed to grow to become adults and have a say in who they marry,” he said.

Headman Tawanda Hlabati said men should protect their families and avoid barter trading their underage daughters for food or other commodities particularly during lean seasons.

“If men spend time with their families and also give them protection as they need to, we will not see all this unwanted behaviour. If a father loves his child, he will not exchange her for money just because they need food. They are human beings, not goods.”

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