Traditional leaders in Manicaland have reiterated their commitment in the fight against child marriages and gender based violence by out-lawing family practices like accepting bride prices.
Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs in Manicaland Provincial Chairperson Chief Chengeta Makumbe of Buhera whose district reportedly recorded the highest number of child marriage cases, GBV, and school drop outs indicated that upsurge in school drop outs has been attributed to child marriages, illegal gold mining activities and school fees challenges.
Speaking during a national symposium hosted by Simukai Child Protection Programme, Senator Chief Makumbe called for the banning of harmful cultural practices that perpetuate and reinforce early sexual debut, female genital mutilation, child marriage and teenage pregnancies.
“We are advocating for a revisit and upholding of laws that protect children especially girls from harmful traditional practices. We as chiefs commit ourselves to be ambassadors of ending child marriages and unsparingly use the social and public platforms to intensify campaigns,” said Makumbe.
The programme was done in partnership with Plan International through the 18+Project strengthening Civil Society to end child marriages in the regions of East and Southern Africa.
Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira highlighted that early child marriages, GBV are rising in most communities and they will advocate for customs that protect rights of children and victims of gender based violence.
“As chiefs we are against early child marriages in our communities and we urge people to defer against the odds of early child marriages and not to allow such kind of things in our communities,” said Charumbira.
Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Dr Sithembiso Nyoni said she is overwhelmed by traditional leaders’ gesture on committing themselves to fight child marriages.
“I am impressed that traditional Chiefs have committed to eradicate child marriages by joining the fight. You should carry on with the good work that was piloted in Manicaland and replicate the process in remaining provinces so as to fight child marriages in our country,” said Nyoni.
According to statistics recently availed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Buhera District had 263 school drop outs while Nyanga had 32 out of 980 cases recorded in Manicaland this year.
Cases of rising child marriages have seen more people joining the fight against the menace following the death of 15 year-old Anna Machaya while giving birth at a Johane Marange shrine in Bocha in July.