Building narratives: Child marriages: Govt should walk the talk

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The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence are used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

By Fungayi Sox

Earlier this year the government published shocking figures revealing that almost 5 000 girls fell pregnant between January and February this year at a time when the scourge of child marriages increased due to the effects of the Covid-19-induced lockdowns.

This could be a focus point as Zimbabwe on November 25 joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign which kicks off on November 25 and runs until December 10 aimed at challenging violence against women and girls.

The campaign was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and continues to be coordinated each year by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence are used as an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

The death of Anna Machaya, a 15-year-old girl who died during childbirth at a Johanne Marange Apostolic Church shrine in July year sparked global outrage and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign presents a watershed moment in raising awareness of the effects of child marriages and other forms of violence against women and girls.

Millions of girls across the globe, with the majority in developing countries, including Zimbabwe, were affected by frequent lockdowns, closure of schools and businesses.

These either dropped out of school, fell pregnant or got married, which disturbed their ecosystem of productivity and continuity in as far as learning is concerned.

Although Parliament has been making moves to bring an end child marriages, in a recent court summon, government lawyers argued that a request for an order from the High Court to secure the rights of the girl child exposed to the practice of child marriages is “misplaced, unnecessary and incompetent”

These worrying remarks from the authorities should ring bell to pressure groups so that Parliament accelerates legislation to protect the girl child.

On the ground, however, some community organisations have been working behind the scenes initiating impacting projects aimed at creating safe and healthy communities for the girl child.

Praise Foundation, Reach Out Zimbabwe and The Decibel Trust are some of the community-based organisations that are making an impact in addressing the plight of the girl child.

The organisations recently partnered and rolled out charitable initiatives by donating sanitary pads, food packs, clothes and engaging with women in the streets as part of their empowerment drive.

Praise Foundation, led by Praise Chibinjana, seeks to empower women psychologically, economically, socially and politically. The organisation has been doing well in terms of raising the flagship of women empowerment and partaking in charitable drives.

At some point they donated food to street kids with a special focus on the girl child living on the streets.

Chibinjana pointed out that “more partners were needed to facilitate more programs that will benefit the less privileged and homeless” and that“only by addressing the inequalities and exclusion that span geographies and generations can we usher in a digital revolution for all, with all”.

According to UNICEF, about 2,2 billion people below the age of 25 still do not have internet access at home.

Reach out Foundation on the other hand aims to uplift the livelihood of orphans and vulnerable children.

The Decibel Trust, founded by urban grooves musician Decibel, aims at supporting the growth of youth in sports, arts and other facets of life.

It is so sad the young women we are counting on to emerge as tomorrow’s game changers are stuck and vulnerably stranded in the streets.

At least we have a definite registry of their existence, for instance the unaccounted for and those living in marginalised areas.

The team that reached out to these girls shared the same sentiments and thoughts of how young girls because of their circumstance are resorting to drug addiction in form of glue as a tool of escapism from reality, having multiple sexual partners and theft to sustain themselves.

“No one deserves to live a life like that,” stated Nomazwe Macebo.

The highlighted narratives reflect how as a society we have neglected the fundamental rights of the girl child.

Two questions emerge, firstly, is the government doing enough to ensure the welfare of kids and girls?

Secondly, is the government doing enough to enact legislation to safeguard the girl child?

Considering that it’s been almost two years since the Marriage Bill was tabled for debate in the National Assembly, government should now walk the talk and pass the Marriage Bill into law as girls remain vulnerable to exploitation under the guise of child marriages.

  • This article was coordinated by Carl Tanyaradzwa Maswoswa.
  •  The Writer Fungayi Sox is the managing consultant at TisuMazwi Consultancy, a communications consultancy firm specialising in writing, publishing, digital media, personal development and education. He writes in his personal capacity. For feedback contact him on +263 776 030 949.

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