Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Mat South Bureau Chief
Women have been urged to speak up and help in the fight against child marriages, sexual abuse and gender-based violence (GBV).
This comes after communities in Matabeleland South Province have noted a significant number of unreported cases of child sexual abuse, most of which are swept under the carpet, and child marriages orchestrated by the patriarchs.
In a move to protect children’s rights, the Constitutional Court in 2016 banned child marriages and other harmful practices that are detrimental to children.
The landmark ruling followed a year-long case where two former young brides, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi filed an application asking the Constitutional Court to declare the Marriage Act and the Customary Marriage Act a breach of the new Constitution.
The court further said other illegitimate marriages that have taken place on religious or cultural grounds are unconstitutional.
Speaking during an engagement meeting with women in production from Matabeleland South Province in Gwanda on Wednesday, the Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Dr Sithembiso Nyoni said it was disheartening to note the rise in the abuse of children with perpetrators not being brought to book.
“I have heard a lot about how children are being abused and married off very young, my ministry is against that.
Women should unite against the abuse of children. They should rise up and let their voices be heard,” said Dr Nyoni.
Turning to GBV, Dr Nyoni said the upsurge in cases was worrying.
“Men are beating up women and women are also beating up men.
Here in Gwanda, we have a One Stop Centre where we encourage women to visit and get help.
As a ministry, we preach peace and harmony among couples in households.
Some of the drivers of GBV are failing to communicate effectively, failing to respect one another and general disharmony,” said Dr Nyoni.
The one-stop centres are meant to ensure access to quality and comprehensive services for survivors of sexual gender-based violence.
They offer health services, legal advisory services, protection provider services through the police victim friendly unit and counselling services.
Other complementary services come from the Department of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and other relevant stakeholders who attend to clients at the centres on call.
Dr Nyoni said her ministry was in the process of setting up empowerment clubs to ensure that women are empowered.
“We don’t want women to be part of clubs that don’t empower them.
We’ve realised that apart from being empowered, women need to meet to exchange notes and become better people.
These empowerment clubs should be formed so that our women are moulded into being virtuous women.
We’re calling them empowerment clubs because we want women to be empowered economically as well,” said Dr Nyoni.