Empowering girls: We’ve come a long way but we still have more to do.

Empowering girls: We’ve come a long way but we still have more to do.

Children have always been the more vulnerable members of our societies, with the girl child the more severely disadvantaged of the two genders. From being given less preference when it comes to education, to heading households as child brides, young girls have had the rough end of the stick in most scenarios. Girls in Zimbabwe are no exception to this.  


It wasn’t so long ago that child marriages were perfectly legal in Zimbabwe, and to no surprise, the country had and still has one of the highest rates of child marriages in sub-Saharan Africa. The implications of this are vast and profound, and the most obvious one being the continuous sexual abuse of minors, statutory rape. But the ramifications don’t end there. The likelihood of continuing with education after a child marriage is extremely low, thus the girls are pulled out of school, and become a part of the many, uneducated women fighting to etch a living for their families.


To aggravate the situation further, these girls are at high risk for acquiring HIV from spouses they have been fostered on with no prior HIV tests taken. The majority of child marriages involve a young girl and a much older, mature man who’s likely been sexually active for a long time, probably with multiple partners. Having been exposed to the virus, these girls soon become mothers, and without proper education and health care (a service poorer communities often go without) will pass on the virus to their newborns. The ripples that emanate from child marriages are wide and far-reaching.


As of 2017-2018, the number of girls married before they can legally vote or reach A’Level in Zimbabwe can fill about four stadiums with barely any room to breathe; and those married before 15, an age at which some are yet to develop breasts, can fill half of a stadium. It’s not all grim news and frightening statistics, there is some good news. In 2018 the government finally passed abolished child marriages in response to vocal lobbyists and advocates. Whilst this law does not eradicate the occurrences of child marriages entirely and certainly not immediately, the consequences of breaking the law may act as a deterrent and will create a defence for the potential child brides.


Despite the good news, history has proven that the mere existence of a law does not change societal behaviour immediately, sometimes if at all, especially without the active effort from community members to abide by the law. Being vigilant and watching out for such cases is important. Teaching children, men and women and the elderly the dangers of child marriages is also important. Educating girls, especially young orphaned girls who are in danger of falling prey to the attentions of older men without the watchful eyes of parents or caring guardians, will go a long way in safeguarding their future. Sometimes the parents and guardians themselves are the biggest threat to these girls as they may marry them off at an incredibly tender age for various reasons including religious and economic gain.


At Tariro Trust we believe in educating young orphaned girls ensuring they can take care of themselves in future and are aware of their rights, the dangers of HIV and AIDS and the role they must play in society as responsible citizens. Be part of the movement to protect girls and learn how you can get involved.

Sources: tradingeconomics.com


Photo cred: Photo by uncoveredlens from Pexels


Author bio:

Yvonne Feresu lives for this. For speaking to readers like you, fighting these battles at your side and hoping that with each written word she can convince you to help make the world a better place too, for girls. She writes a…lot and volunteers for Tariro .


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