Prevalence of girl child marriages and pregnancies worrisome

04 Dec, 2021 - 00:12 0 Views
Prevalence of girl child marriages and pregnancies worrisome Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa

The Chronicle

Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
REPORTS that 296 learners dropped out of school last term while 153 have been married or impregnated in Kwekwe and its surroundings are disturbing but not surprising. It has become somewhat a fashionable illegality that the First Lady — Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa is determined to end.

She has not left anything to chance, engaging relevant Government departments, traditional leaders, parents, churches and the youths in the fight against child marriages, gender-based violence and other forms of abuse in a holistic approach.

The First Lady has inspired hope in youngsters who have been abused like, Natasha Mwale* who was just 14 when she dropped out of school and eloped with her then boyfriend who would become her husband.

Natasha is from Silobela where society has somehow ‘‘legalised’’ and normalised child marriages, and she didn’t see anything wrong with getting married at that age.

She became one of the victims of child marriage as such cases have been on the increase in Kwekwe district owing to gold panning activities where panners lure young girls with money.

Natasha’s marriage was not a bed of roses as she thought. Everything went wrong when she fell pregnant and imposed herself on the guy responsible.

“He did not see me as his wife and never assumed the responsibility of a married man. He would go and drink beer at the shops with some girls.

At times he would come from the mine and spend days drinking at the shopping centre while there would be no food at home,” narrated Natasha.

Insults and assaults were now the order of the day whenever she demanded that he account for his actions. Her marriage couldn’t find a safe harbour to anchor and the two children that she had during the subsistence of her marriage did not buy her peace.

“He would come home drunk and would beat me up if asked about the girls he would have been seen with. He would tell me straight up that I was nothing as he could use his money to marry any girl he wanted,” she said.

For some time, the desperation of her situation forced her to withstand the torturous exertion as her parents who never appreciated her decision were too disappointed to accept her back.

“I tried to talk to my parents but they didn’t want to hear anything to do with me.

They were so angry because I had quit school at Form Two, something my parents never saw coming. Life became hell for me with nowhere to turn to.

At times he would shower them with money and they wouldn’t listen to me when I told them my problems,” she said.

With her two children Natasha narrates how she escaped the abusive relationship and the jaws of death.

“I started working for this female teacher as a childminder.

She would give me a few dollars and food for my children. All teachers at the school were sympathetic of my situation as they knew me to be a bright student so they were willing to assist,” she said.

As if her problems were not enough, a male teacher at the school also took advantage of her and sexually abused her for a few dollars.

“I had no option but to oblige as I wanted food for my children. It hurts me whenever I think about it,” she narrated, fighting back tears.

When her husband got wind of what was happening at the school, he mobilised a gang of outlaws and besieged the school intending to manhandle the female teacher accusing her of luring his wife into prostitution.

This forced her to hurriedly seek for a transfer and move to Harare.

“I reported the case to the police and the chief also got wind of the matter and he summoned him and his crew to his court where they were fined,” she said.

Natasha then moved to Harare after her aunt requested that she goes there to start a new life.

“I went to Harare where I started working in one of my aunt’s tuck shops. She was so disappointed that my father was being bought into not appreciating my situation and she took me in,” she said.

Life was also not rosy at the tuck shop as some men would also make sexual advances.

“There is nauseating belief in a lot of men that a single mother is of loose morals. They see a prostitute in every single mother and think they are probably desperate for men so they would make sexual advances, but I was so resilient. I had learnt my lessons,” she narrated.

She said she learnt the business and started her own tuck shop which she is now operating in the capital and using the proceeds to fend for her two children.

She looks back at her life and regrets her early marriage.

“I was lured into marriage by useless things and I regret ever doing this. I wish girls my age would avoid being intimate and concentrate on their education. I couldn’t complete my education because I loved useless things,” she said.

Kwekwe district has disturbing statistics on child marriages owing largely to gold panners who lure young girls with money.

Reports are that 296 students dropped out of school last term with 153 having gotten married or impregnated.

Mejorie Nhamaoinesu of Shamwari YeMwanasikana believes that 16 days of activism against gender-based violence will go a long way to ensure that cases of GBV are minimised.

“We continue to implement programmes that improve community awareness on the dangers of child marriages. We advocate for the incarceration of men who sexually abuse under-age girls in the form of marriage. It is also unfortunate that we still have families who believe that their children can benefit from these unions,” she said.

Chief Weight Gwesela of Zhombe, whose area, just like Silobela is also largely affected, said it was a taboo and an illegality to marry girls when they were under-age.

“I punish offenders heavily in my area. I don’t want to hear such a taboo in my area. It happened a few months ago and I fined them heavily and I ordered the girl to be returned to her home.

They know very well that I do not tolerate such things in my area,” said Chief Gwesela.

He said it was the duty of the whole community to take action against such practices and eradicate abuse, not only of young girls but also of women and some men.

Share This: