A 14 year old girl stares blankly at a screaming 2 year old toddler in the depths of what child psychologists term the “terrible two” stage, notorious for tantrums. When asked what is wrong with the child, she replies irritably that the child just cries so it is best to ignore him. Upon closer attendance to the child, it is discovered that all he needed was a diaper change, a bath and some food.
The little girl looks on the point of tears herself and desperate to escape from her existence. She is now a mother, a classic case of a child with child, having gotten pregnant at 12years of age. Her situation was that of rape conveniently turned into marriage upon negotiations and payments to avoid reporting the case. Her face looks aged with premature wisdom that comes from having endured pain and suffering. This is still the sad reality of the girl child in Zimbabwe many a time. Thus it is only fitting that this year’s theme for the Day of the African Child Commemorations be as follows:
“25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”
Manicaland as a Province is saying, “No!” to child marriages. The Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Simukai Child Protection Programme, Youth Alive Zimbabwe, Family Support Trust, Mwana Trust, SAYWHAT, Legal Resource Foundation, NANGO, IRC, FACT, PLAN, Nzeve Deaf Centre, ZPS and other organisations are partnering in a collective effort to commemorate the Day of the African Child through raising awareness of the desperate need to end child marriages.
The words ‘women empowerment,’ are often chanted with interventions being created in attempt to balance the scale of equality. Advertisements for vacancies will often cite the words “female candidates encouraged to apply and women are now holding important posts such as ministers and managing directors which were in previous decades, positions of authority reserved for their male counterparts.
However with all this progress and strides towards empowering women, there are still an alarming number of child marriages happening in our society. What is even more disturbing is the fact that parents, guardians, religious leaders and relatives who are supposed to be essential parts of a child’s safety- net and support system, are found.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe (2013) for the first time ever in Zimbabwe is now inclusive of child rights. Children have the right to education, the right to protection among many others yet often the girl child is denied these rights. Marriage has become a fund-raising strategy for some families, resorting to selling their children to the highest bidder in exchange for momentary financial and material gains. No thought is spared for her potential to achieve great things with the right support or her immaturity to handle situations she may be faced with in the marriage. All that matters is she is a girl and as soon as she is able to bear children, it is time to cash in on the investment.
It is saddening to realise that the girl child herself is often her own worst enemy. Instead of crying out for her rights, she submits herself to her fate. In some cases girls deny themselves their own rights by seeking marriage prematurely with delusional visions of constant bliss in a life of being eternally dependant.
Saturday the 18th of July, all roads lead to Odzi Primary School where the campaign against child marriages will be taking place in full force. We are appealing to the public to join the fight against child marriages and protect our children’s future. There is a time for everything and parents are also urged to give their children a chance to explore their potential. Let us all collectively join hands in protecting our children and observing their rights. For further comments, discussion or feedback email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our facebook page: Simukai Child Protection Programme or website: Simukaicpp.org