Whiz kid Maud Chifamba who made history by becoming the youngest student to enroll at the University of Zimbabwe at the age of 14 has urged media to promote balanced reporting on incidents of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Participating at the launch of the anti-child marriages dubbed ‘Give Me A Chance Campaign’ at the Sweden Embassy in Harare, Chifamba said media is a powerful tool that influences public opinion including promoting and legitimizing intolerance, violence and hate.
“In a country where child marriages have been on a rise, the media should help to prevent GBV and ensure that it is not used to further generate the challenges and report GBV cases as it is,” said Chifamba.
In a speech read on her behalf by Vaidah Mashangwa, Guest of Honour, Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Sithembiso Nyoni said the campaign comes as the nation is beginning to realize the gravity and extent of child marriages in Zimbabwe after the death of a 12 year old girl who died while giving birth in Masvingo, the 9 year old who gave birth in Bulawayo and more recently the Bindura girl who was sexually abused by two teenage boys.
“The drivers of child marriages have been identified, and key among them are poverty, religion, culture and traditions, poverty influences the high rates of child marriages in Zimbabwe and marrying off young girls is common in rural areas, farming and mining communities, where the educational, social and economic prospects for girls are usually very limited and I am glad that this campaign will aim to be aspirational in nature and aim to, “Give Her A Chance,” Nyoni said.
She added that, some of our cultural values have resulted in sharp gender inequalities that put women and girls at a disadvantage and compromising position which makes them susceptible to abuse.
“Practices such as kuripira Ngozi (atonement marriages), kuzvarira (arranged marriages) and chigadzamapfihwa (where a niece is brought in to bear children for her aunt) which perpetuate child marriages as it is the girl child who is expected to fulfil all these cultural practices should stop,” Nyoni said.
She said while traditions are vital to any country in many ways, there is need to uphold positive values of tradition and do away with the negative practices and organize ourselves to fight the retrogressive and degrading practices leading to child marriages.
Minister Nyoni said it is disheartening to note that some religious practices among certain sects are fuelling child marriages in Zimbabwe, whilst certain biblical instructions may be well meaning, often flawed interpretations of religious laws stand in the way of further progress on girl child empowerment.
“We condemn in the strongest sense such practices which stand on the way of the girl child empowerment; girls need to be given an opportunity to make their own choices and when they are given such an opportunity, they have the potential to make good choices and they can choose to stay in school, when to marry and how many children to bear. Child marriage is a tragedy for the girl, for her children and for her country’s development, It is not only about changing laws but about changing the attitudes of people, communities and media around the worth of girls and their contribution to society.” Nyoni said.