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Zimbabwe Youth Council and UNICEF launch Report on Harmful Social and Cultural Practices

Early marriages have increased the vulnerability of girls and is leading to a lot of social, emotional and psychological problems among young girls in many communities.

By Richard Nyamanhindi

Harare, 26 March 2014: The Zimbabwe Youth Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth, Indigenization and Economic Empowerment and UNICEF have launched a Report on Harmful Social and Cultural Practices Affecting Children: Our Collective Responsibility in Zimbabwe.

The launch took place in Harare as part of an effort to provide evidence based information for the formulation of policy and the development of intervention strategies that protect children from harmful social and cultural practices in Zimbabwe.

The report ranked five major issues as the common harmful social and cultural practices in Zimbabwe. In their order, these are; early marriages, child prostitution, child labour, child sexual abuse and border jumping.

Presenting the findings, Angela Mureza, former Child Minister of Home Affairs 2012-2013, noted with concern the increasing cases of child sexual abuse and early marriages in various communities with the majority of perpetrators getting away with it because they either compensate the families concerned or offer dowry resulting in young girls getting into early marriages with older men.

“Early marriages have increased the vulnerability of girls and is leading to a lot of social, emotional and psychological problems among young girls in many communities. Parents are equally to blame because they are conniving with the perpetrators as they accept money in the form of dowry and damage,” Angela said.   

Speaking at the launch, the Deputy Minister of Youth, Indigenization and Economic Empowerment, Honourable Mathias Tongofa, explained that the government is concerned about the harmful social and cultural practices that are affecting children in Zimbabwe and noted that the government will closely work with various stakeholders to harmonize marriage laws with the Constitution so that offenders are punished.

“The report is a culmination of the request by the Junior Parliament that they needed evidence based advocacy and it is unique in that it was commissioned and led by children themselves,” said the Deputy Minister. The report gives us as Government the opportunity to reflect on where we are as a country and we will use it as a sample of the reality in our communities.”

 “It is our number one priority as a Government to make sure that we deal with child labour and the other harmful social and cultural practices affecting our children and get them back to school. We are going to lobby with the other relevant Ministries for the harmonization of marriage laws in order to make it easy to prosecute offenders of child abuse,” Honourable Tongofa said. 

In a speech read on behalf of the UNICEF Representative, Mr Robert Ndamobissi, the UNICEF Chief of Planning and Monitoring said that it was worrisome that in this day and age we still have so many communities that practice child marriages.

“It is highly worrisome that the practice of child marriages continues unabated in spite of overwhelming evidence that young, teenage mothers are likely to die early, have higher levels of poverty, have a greater risk of contracting HIV, and usually suffer higher levels of gender-based violence. We are hopeful that the newly adopted Constitution of Zimbabwe will go a long way to harmonize the minimum age of marriage in Zimbabwe.”

“We look forward to the day when no child in Zimbabwe will be forced to abandon her school, her childhood dreams to become a doctor, a nurse, or an engineer just because she has been forced into marriage,” said Ndamobissi.

Also present during the launch of the report were representatives from the Ministries of Sports, Arts and Culture; Primary and Secondary Education and various senior Members of Parliament.

The main purpose of the report was to gather empirical evidence on the different practices affecting the lives of children in Zimbabwe following the 2013 African Union, Day of the African Child theme entitled: Eliminating harmful social and cultural practices affecting children: Our collective responsibility.  

The consultative process was largely qualitative and participatory in nature. The approach allowed children, community members and other respective stakeholders to articulate their views and feelings regarding the welfare of children and some of the prevalent practices that are harming children.

For the full Report: Click Here

 

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