Charity Ruzvidzo Post CorrespondentA youth rights lobby group – Roots Zimbabwe is calling on the government and child rights organisations to include men in programmes aimed at curbing early childhood marriages.
The child rights lobby group made the call recently in Glendale, Mazowe district where there is an initiative to engage men in dialogues on the impact of early childhood marriages.
Nyasha Mantosi, the lobby group’s programmes officer, said the campaign was aimed at educating men against marrying young children.
“Mashonaland Central province has the highest cases of early childhood marriages. After realising the burden of this in the province, a number of campaigns have been put in place to empower girls. We decided to shift our focus to teaching men the dangers associated with early childhood marriages,” she said.
According to UNICEF child marriages often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and interrupting her schooling.
In addition, her opportunities for a career are limited and she is placed at increased risk of domestic violence. Child marriage also affects boys, but to a lesser degree than girls.
Mantosi said the response they got from the men was overwhelming.
“The number of men who came through for the campaign was very good but we still hope we can get more numbers. It is essential to teach the drivers of these marriages the harm they are causing society when they marry young children,” she said.
The campaign also offered free HIV testing and counselling services.
“We realised that most men do not want to go to the hospital. This is caused by the misconception that men are strong and hospitals are for women, the weak.”
“Such beliefs put the young girls at risk of being forced to a marry someone who is already sick,” said Mantosi.
Mazowe rural council official Shepherd Edward, said behaviour change towards marrying young children was essential in men.
“We know that behaviour change is not an event but a process. Initiatives such as this campaign need to be constantly done in order to achieve a change in attitudes towards early childhood marriages,” he said.
“There is need for self censorship, one must be able to realise the jeopardy caused to the child’s future by these marriages,” said Edward.
The Mazowe council official said in his fight against early marriages he has engaged traditional leaders and communities where child marriages are rampant.
“I summoned chiefs and headmen who deal directly with these men who marry young children in their villages urging them to discourage such behaviour and report such cases to the police,” said Edward.
Child rights activists say some of the major causes of early childhood marriages are the prevailing religious and cultural norms that allow it to take place as an acceptable practice.
These norms include arranged marriages, pledging girls to families to appease ancestral spirits, and poverty driven trade-offs in which girls are made to enter marriages by poor families in exchange for livestock and money.
The campaign also afforded men a chance to partake in dialogues providing them a platform to voice out their thoughts on early childhood marriages.
Adam Mandaza, 42, of Glendale said men who marry young girls rob the nation of its treasure.
“I get very emotional when I think of elderly men who marry young girls old enough to be their grandchildren or daughters. The only reason behind this is lust. Such men must be given life in prison,” he said.JM: You are welcome.