Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
THE Government has partnered the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to implement a US$30 million initiative that is set to end child marriages in Zimbabwe which affects about 34 percent of women.
Child marriage, according to UNFPA, is a gross violation of child rights and robs girls of their childhood, preventing them from reaching their full potential and in most cases, resulting in increased poverty.
The practice has since worsened due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has exposed girls to a number of harmful practices.
Findings from the State of the World Population show that all over the world, including in Zimbabwe, thousands of girls are, on a daily basis, having their health, rights and futures stolen from them through the prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) and harmful cultural practices.
In statement, UNFPA said at least 19 harmful practices, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing, are considered human rights violations, though the report focuses on the three most prevalent ones: female genital mutilation, child marriage, and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons.
“At least 35 percent of women and girls, 15 to 49 years, have experienced some form of GBV at least once in their lifetime. At the same time, Zimbabwe is among the 20 African countries with the highest child marriage rate. According to a 2019 report, about 1 in 3 (34 percent) of women of the ages 20-24 were first married or in union before the age of 18. Accelerated action is urgently called for in Zimbabwe to address this problem amongst other harmful practices, that are obstacles to growth and development,” read the statement.
In Zimbabwe, UNFPA says GBV and harmful practices are undoing a lot of gains made in development, and with the Covid-19 pandemic the situation is worsening.
“Violence against women is rife and affects all women, regardless of geographic location, wealth or education. Child marriage is a gross violation of child rights and robs girls of their childhood, preventing them from reaching their full potential and in most cases, resulting in increased poverty. Let us allow girls to be children first before they become wives and mothers.”
According to UNFPA, globally, Covid-19 will disrupt efforts to end child marriage, potentially resulting in an additional 13 million child marriages between this year and 2030.
“While progress has been made in ending some harmful practices worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to reverse gains even more. It calls for urgent accelerated action in Zimbabwe as well. The UN is collaborating with the government of Zimbabwe and Civil Society Organisations in its implementation of this US$30 million programme. The initiative has identified child marriage as one of the urgent harmful practices that need to be addressed in Zimbabwe.” — @thamamoe