GOKWE — AT least 60% of girls in Gokwe are married or made pregnant before the age of 19, thereby disrupting their education, a Cabinet minister has said.
REPORT BY MOSES CHIBAYA
Speaking at the launch of two reports by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency on poverty and poverty datum line analysis for 2011/12 last week, Finance minister Tendai Biti said the figures were shocking.
“Sixty percent of girls in Gokwe have got a child by the time they are 19 and that’s frightening because a child is carrying another child,” said Biti. “It also means that these kids are not going to school.”
Some of the girls are made pregnant or married before they reach the age of 16. In Zimbabwe, Marriage Act Chapter 5:11 states that men may marry at the minimum age of 18, while women marry at the age of 16.
Under the Domestic Violence Act, it is an offence to marry an under age girl. However, it is difficult to stop such marriages, as they are never reported to the police as they have the blessings of the parents or guardians.
Social commentators attributed increased cases of early marriages to poverty, as most of the girls involved in such relationships were from poor families.
Women and Aids Support Network (Wasn) communications manager, Evince Mugumbate said social and economic factors play a pivotal role in the upbringing of girl children.
She said most girls are still disadvantaged in their families and society to the extent that they do not aim for greater achievements beyond marriage.
“They [girls] are already thinking of a husband who will take care of them instead of taking care of themselves, and later have a husband that would complement their efforts,” said Mugumbate. “The rural setup does not allow one to feel self-worthy, especially when you are a girl child.”
Cases of girls dropping out of school after being married very early contradict claims that Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa.
Early marriages are also rampant in rural areas such as Hurungwe, Marange, Chipinge, Buhera, Binga and some parts of Chiredzi.
Mugumbate said Wasn was undertaking various programmes countrywide to improve the welfare of the girl child.