Plan engages traditional leaders to end child marriages

Mutare– A leading civil society group has augmented its advocacy initiatives, amid increasing teenage pregnancies, by engaging a traditional leaders’ body, to end child marriages, 263chat can reveal.

Plan International, Chipinge district’s Programmes Unit Manager for, Gladys Muyambo made these revelations at an Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ARSH) provincial stakeholders meeting.

Responding to queries over negative comments made by some traditional leaders who view the girl child as cash cows, Muyambo rubbished such claims  as backward.

“We are advocating at various levels to end child marriages. We have engaged traditional leadership through the Chiefs Council, at a national level, taking the agenda of ending child marriages to the custodians of culture.

“The traditional leaders themselves have promised to assist in all their powers to end child marriages, but this is a process that takes time,” she said.

Chief   Chiduku was quoted warning villagers against reporting such cases to the police, as they would rob them of tokens of appreciation, “We should not report such matters to the police because we are a family.

“If we report such cases to police as chiefs how do you expect us to survive. Who is going to give us token of appreciation?”

Daniel Maromo, provincial communication officer for Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council said advocacy initiatives were bearing fruits as some traditional leaders are setting up by laws abolishing childe marriages in their jurisdictions.

“In advocacy we don’t expect uniform responses from those who may be practicing wrong things, it’s a gradual process.

“We are however encouraged that some traditional chiefs have already taken strides to improve and are setting up by laws to stop child marriages,” he said.

Muyambo said they were also extending capacity building for vulnerable girls in communities to access health facilities and to prioritize their sexual health.

“One thing is that we are also doing is working with the girls themselves and empowering them by giving them knowledge.

“In this regard we collaborate with relevant offices and educate the girls that model of empowerment can also work,” she said.

Muyambo also said they were advocating in for families to take seriously issues of ASRH.

She said engaging families of affected girls was to enable localized intervention, at the family level, where circumstances differ from case to case.

“We have also realized that cases differ that’s why we are engaging families directly and we sit with that particular family in a closed dialogue. We have seen that this alsio has impact as issues of adolescent sexual reproductive health issues are very important.

“We have seen in the province increased teenage pregnancies and this, is a cause of concern,” she said.

Plan International’s “A girl’s right to say no to marriage”, 2013 report on child marriages states that, “One in three girls in the developing world will be married by her eighteenth birthday. If nothing is done to stop current trends, more than 140 million girls will be married as children by 2020. That’s 14 million every year or nearly 39,000 girls married every day.”

It says this global challenged is caused by several underlying factors including “…poverty, gender inequality and a lack of protection for children’s rights. These drivers are frequently compounded by limited access to quality educational and employment opportunities and reinforced by entrenched social norms.”

Plan recommends that national governments, with the support of donors and civil society, ensures that national legislation prohibits child marriage and makes 18 the minimum age for marriage for both boys and girls.

It also calls for access to education, engagement with communities, provision of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, promotion of participation of girls in decision making, as well as “…support and protection for children who are already married, including by providing health care and psycho-social support and educational opportunities.”