The face of child marriages in Mashonaland West

/1. Introduction

Early marriages are a common phenomenon in Zimbabwe and their prevalence has been accorded to a number of factors ranging from poverty, religion, abuse and peer pressure. Statistics from the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey show that 24 per cent of girls aged between 15 to 19 years are married or in a union (UNICEF, 2015).

Mashonaland West province from where this study has been derived is not unique to this narrative as child marriages have also been rampant in its various districts. Following several studies and reports, there was a realization that early marriages, unwanted teenage pregnancies and failure of the girl-child to appreciate the importance of education were amongst the major challenges faced by adolescent girls and young women in Zimbabwe and that applies to Zvimba district. (Changachirere G, The Young Women in Marginalised Communities of Africa: The Forgotten lot, osisa.org), (Kanjanda O, Chiparange GV, The Effects of Early Girl-Child Marriage in Mutasa District, Manicaland Province: A Cases Of Samanga ‘A’ Ward in Honde Valley).

Having conducted a national Girls Indaba in 2016 which brought 103 participants from 30 organizations working in the space of education, Higherlife Foundation, TaLI and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) produced a report which outlined the key advocacy issues surrounding girl’s empowerment. Among the issues discussed the list of the following were identified as advocacy areas: Infrastructure and WASH Facilities; Sexual and Reproductive Health Education; Feeding Schemes; Mentorship and Life Skills Training; Textbook & E-learning Facilities; Early Child Marriages; Gender Based Violence. As part of the Higherlife Foundation advocacy campaigns, it was decided that the Girl Child Indabas be decentralized to each particular province in order to tackle the relevant issues with the students themselves.

Mashonaland West Province Indaba

Initiated and funded by the Higherlife Foundation, the HLF provincial team partnered with Tag a Life International (TaLI), a Zimbabwean girls and young women’s rights organization to facilitate the Girls Indaba with a specific focus on early child marriages. As a Girls and young women’s rights organization, TaLI realized this opportunity provided by Higher Life and decided to learn from girls what their experiences and issues were regarding child marriages in Zvimba District, and initiated the documentation of this report which was led by the TaLI Director Ms Nyaradzo Mashayamombe.

The Girls Indaba brought together a total of 333 girls between the ages of 14 to 18 from four secondary schools in Zvimba district which are Matoranhembe, Murombedzi, Nyamangara and Kawondera.

In a bid to unpack the problem of early marriages at different levels and empower the girls to speak for themselves, 10 focus groups (consisting of girls from each school mixed together) were created and issued with pointer discussion questions which explored the causes, effects and probable solutions of the subject matter. The exercise also sought to have girls get information about child marriages and to learn from each other.

Source: Tag a Life International (TaLI)

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