On the 7th and 10th of April, Restless Development Zimbabwe supported young people to participate in an awareness raising and policy influencing event on Child Marriage.
Restless Development were represented by 20 Youth Power Champions and members of the Youth Accountability Board from Harare and Bulawayo, who participated in the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s Public hearing on the issue.
Prior to the hearings, young people shared tips on effective communication, pitching, lobbying and advocacy. They also mapped the challenges surrounding early marriages and fed into focus group discussions, of which 358 young people aged between 10-30 years in Harare, Bulawayo, Bulilima and Mangwe shared their views.
Why Child Marriage?
Preventing Child Marriages are a key component of Sexual and Reproductive Health programming and impact on related issues such as teenage pregnancies and the increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Through our Youth Power campaign we have continued to sensitize and educate young people, members of the community and local leaders so that Sexual and Reproductive Health services and products are provided for young people.
Sexual and Reproductive Health rights are a basic right, as outlined in the Global Goals, and we are working with Youth Power Champions to ensure that this right is fulfilled and all Global Goals related to this are fulfilled.
Goal Number Five promises to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. In this goal, one of the major targets is to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Child Marriage is a major challenge facing young girls and women in Zimbabwe with 33% of young girls and women in the country having been engaged in a form of marriage union before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage often results in children leaving school and in the process, shutting them away from educational and economic opportunities that could lift them and their families out of poverty; exposes the brides and their new born babies to high health and death risks due to physiological immaturity and the related lack of utilisation of health care centres for deliveries; and results in rampant violation of human rights as brides are exposed to inequality, domestic violence and lack of choice about their sexual and reproductive and developmental rights.
What do Young People Think?
“We need to go beyond only conducting SRH sessions with young people, we need to educate the Chiefs as well as community leaders, for them to become champions who spearhead the fight against child marriage” - Munyaradzi Mhike, Restless Development Alumni Member
A key issue which was brought up by another Restless Development Alumni member , Linda Kanzara, was young people's lack of adequate knowledge and access to contraceptives needed to prevent teenage pregnancies which lead to child marriages. She was quoted in one of the leading national newspapers in Zimbabwe:
“These children indeed are having sex at a very early age and we need to start looking into issues of access to contraceptives,” - Linda, Restless Development Alumni Member.
The event was attended by a number of representatives from youth , child rights, womens’ rights and SRH focused organisations providing insight and understanding on the issues around Child Marriage, as well as practical solutions on how to put an end to Child Marriage in Zimbabwe.
A formal report will be submitted by the young People representing Restless Development to Parliament as part of the follow up.
The Public Hearings were led by representatives from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Youth Indigenisation , Economic Empowerment, Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Health and Child Care and the Thematic Committee on Gender and Development.