Child marriages are a form of sexual violence against children. Child marriage refers to any marriage where at least one of the parties is under 18 years of age. They are often considered as a form of forced marriage given that one or both parties have not expressed their full, free and informed consent, (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women).
Currently, child marriage is a leading form of sexual violence in Zimbabwe which threatens the development and well-being of young girls. Children who have fallen victims of marriages have been affected in numerous ways including their psychological, social and physical well-being. They have become more vulnerable as they have also become victims of other forms of gender-based violence, school dropouts, high mortality rates, contracting sexually transmitted infections and a continued cycle of poverty.
Areas that are prone to child marriages include gold panning and farming areas, and in Zimbabwe, Mashonaland Central, West and Manicaland have the leading number of cases of child marriages. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission 2019 Report revealed that child marriages in Zimbabwe are unacceptably high with 33% girls and 4% boys being married before the age of 18. It also recorded Mashonaland Central Province with the highest number of child marriages in the country with close to 50% of girls and 7% of boys.
World Vision Zimbabwe (WVZ)’s campaign focuses on ending child marriages in its operating areas and beyond. The organization adopted the campaign themed “It takes a World” to foster strategies to eliminate child marriages in a collaborative and comprehensive way. This calls for efforts by the staff, partners, stakeholders, donors, volunteers and communities to work towards eliminating such practices that hinder growth and development of young people. Through the campaign, 1,009 children and young people were reached through engagement with local and national level decision makers to influence policy and 2.5 million children were reached through mass media awareness messages (WVZ, National Impact Report 2021). Our area programs, through child protection programming have implored some preventive and responsive mechanisms to address child marriage cases within their areas which has resulted in positive impacts.
As WVZ, we commit to continue creating safe environments for children which are free from child marriages. We keep on empowering children to advocate for their rights and engaging caregivers and community leadership to work together to eradicate child marriages within their own communities.
In Zimbabwe, 1 in every 3 girls have experienced sexual violence, particularly child marriage.
The Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 highlighted that women aged 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18, whereas 2 in every 5 women aged 20 -24 in rural areas of Zimbabwe were married before 18. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission during the National Gender Forum of 2019 revealed that child marriages in Zimbabwe are unacceptably high with 32, 6% girls and 4% boys being married before the age of 18.
Child marriage hinders development and well-being of children as it affects their psychological, social and physical state. The vulnerability of children increases as they become victims of other forms of gender-based violence, school dropouts, high mortality rates, contracting sexually transmitted infections and a continued cycle of poverty.
Through physical engagements with children and community leaders, media engagements, social media awareness, and adoption of commemorative days like the 16 days of Activism against gender-based violence, WVZ has managed to reach out to over 2.5 million people progressively since the inception of the campaign.
World Vision Zimbabwe has committed to continue creating safe environments for children which are free from child marriages by working with parents/ caregivers, community leaders, decision makers and children themselves to eradicate child marriages in communities.