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Zimbabwe, 11 March 2015: Partnerships needed to end child marriages

© UNICEF 2015
Zimbabwe’s new Constitution stipulates that “no person may be compelled to enter marriage against their will”, and calls on the state to ensure that no girls are pledged into marriage.

By Elizabeth B. Mupfumira

“If we are to end the scourge of child marriage in Zimbabwe, and the world, there is a need for a continued collective partnership and unity of purpose among the various organisations around the country.”

This was said by the Ambassador of the Netherlands Gera Sneller, at the screening of the short documentary 'Together: Ending child marriage in Zambia', which was recently released by the international organization - Girls Not Brides.

The event brought together a number of organisations who are working in different parts of the country to end child, early and forced marriage in Zimbabwe. It also provided them with an opportunity to share information on their organization’s work, share best practices, and to build a better tool kit to deliver better results.

Zimbabwe’s new Constitution stipulates that “no person may be compelled to enter marriage against their will”, and calls on the state to ensure that no girls are pledged into marriage, and yet according to the Multiple Indication Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014, 31 percent of girls in Zimbabwe are married before 18 years.

In 2014, two former young brides, Loveness Mudzuri and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi filed an application asking the Constitutional Court to declare the Marriage Act and Customary Marriage Act a breach of the new Constitution. The judges reserved judgement on the matter.

Studies have found that issues such as poverty, limited access to education and harmful cultural norms are the key factors that drive child marriages in Zimbabwe.

“UNICEF is assisting the Government of Zimbabwe in implementing the Harmonised Cash Transfer programme to assist poor households with additional income. Preliminary findings show that households who are benefitting from the programme are less likely to marry off their girls,” said Reza Hossaini, UNICEF Representative.

In neighbouring Malawi and Zambia, the issue of child marriage is at the fore, with the Malawian Parliament recently passing a law that outlaws marriage before the age of 18, while a similar debate and campaign is also ongoing in Zambia where the government is in the process of developing a national action plan to stop early marriages.

“We have to continue to speak up against these cultural norms which allow society to turn a blind eye on child marriages and make them acceptable. No matter which corner of the world we may find ourselves, we should continue to speak against it,” said Malawian Ambassador Jane Kambalame.

Girls Not Brides is an international initiative that was formed in 2011 by The Elders to enhance, strengthen and accelerate efforts to prevent child marriage and to support married girls. Since it’s inception, the initiative has a network of over 400 civil society organisations in over 60 countries across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas who work collectively to empower girls with education; engage communities to change mindsets; and advocate for supportive legal and policy frameworks.

Local organisations such as Childline; Tag a Life, Roots, and Kastwe Sisterhood attended to event to discuss and showcase some of the programmes they are implementing against child marriage.



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