HARARE - The UN has called on Zimbabwe to accelerate efforts to end child marriages.
There are already efforts aimed at ending child marriages but targeted community campaigns should be intensified, especially in rural areas where the practice is common.
As rightly stated by Zimbabwe’s UN resident coordinator Bishow Parajuli, the notion that girls, some as young as 12, are fair game for marriage should no longer be condoned in this day and age.
Delphine Serumaga, the UN Women representative, is quoted in this edition stating that combating child marriages requires accelerating successful practices that include supporting community leaders who are pro-actively coming up with community-driven solutions and addressing the structural causes of child marriage by challenging gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality and equal opportunities for girls and boys. If well implemented, this can up the fight against child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
And as reported elsewhere in this edition, this is a concern to several UN agencies, including Unicef, UN Women, UN Population Fund, to name a few.
Interventions to address this problem must take into consideration specific challenges faced by young girls.
The practice — a disturbing product of poverty, security concerns and lack of knowledge — spans cultures and religions.
Keeping girls and young women in marriages rather than school — where children can learn skills to eventually become wage-earners while also becoming educated on the cycle of poverty — only serves to keep a country trapped in poverty
Another point is that inequality in homes where parents favour boys to attain higher education than girls, leads to early marriages.
Also notable is the fact that physically challenged girls — a vulnerable group whose plight is worsened by societal discrimination and denial of a right to education, are often defiled.
These are concerns the government, NGOs and communities should take into consideration while fighting this scourge.
Ending child marriages requires collective effort.
Reza Hossaini, Unicef representative, rightly points out that a quality education that deepens knowledge, promotes a sense of self-worth and expands life skills, opens the minds of young people to a world of mutual respect, learning and self-fulfilment.
If we actually make sure girls stay out of marriages until they are 18 or even older, they get proper education, they are safe and secure, it will have a tremendous impact on the well-being of this country.
We need to inculcate in us a sense that girls are not brides.