Married too soon: Nipped on the bud

Child marriage refers to the marrying of a person under the legal age of 18 years. The constitution of Zimbabwe defines a child as every boy and girl below the age of 18. Child marriage is a defilement of the child’s human rights that takes away an opportunity for them to obtain a decent education, bond with their peers, enjoy the whole experience of biological maturity and ultimately to choose their own partner.
Regional and International legislations also ratify that child marriages are wrong. The African Charter on the rights and Welfare of the child disallows child marriages in article 21. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women are some of the laws and statutes that forbid the mistreatment of girls innate in child marriages. Zimbabwe ratified these conventions but it is rather unfortunate that child marriages are still prevalent. The major causes of child marriages in Zimbabwe are cultural, socio-economic and religious. Child marriage affects girls in far greater numbers than boys, and with more intensity. A number of factors have perpetuated child marriages and it is unfortunate that the girl child who is married off is often on the giving end rather than the receiving end.
Poverty has been the main reason why some families marry off the girl child to avoid responsibilities such as food, education and health. Early child marriage is therefore perceived as a scapegoat to these responsibilities and is valued as an economically strategic means of coping. However the downside to this is that the young girls are exposed to abuse, sexual exploitation, manipulation and the scourge of HIV and AIDS among other things. The situation becomes aggravated when they fall pregnant as they are often victims of maternal and infant mortality as their bodies are biologically not ready to deal with pregnancy.
The patriarchal system also plays a pivotal role in perpetuating child marriages. Patriarchy commodifies women and girls and this manifest through practices such as charging of bride price. This perception manifests itself in a number of forms such as domestic violence, rape and lack of access to basic human rights all in the guise of culture and tradition. It is through such discrimination and violations that many young girls are forced into early marriages.
Religion at times also plays a role in child marriages. Girls in some sects are married off to elderly church members who often already have other wives in the church. They believe that some certain individuals have a special ability to be ‘shown’ who should be married off to whom. In such circumstances the girl child has no say but has to simply agree and go off to be the elderly man’s wife. This is a violation of the child’s right to choose whom she wants to eventually spend the rest of her life with.
The media also perpetuates child marriages by prescribing the place of the woman in society. Through programming that is aired in the media many families want to fulfil the role of women as shown in the media. Unfortunately this has seen many children being married off earlier than they should-as though to fulfil that which they see in the media.
IYWD notes with grave concern the prevalence of child marriages especially in marginalised communities such as the rural farming and mining communities. More punitive measures should be ensured by the government to ensure that perpetrators of such injustices are brought to book. Policies must be put in place to address the issues highlighted as they are the root causes of child marriages. Every child deserves an equal opportunity to decent opportunity to grow up and choose. Denying young girls this right is no different from a flower that is nipped from the bud because the very life that these children have is being stolen from them. We all have a part to play to bring child marriages to an end. As we celebrate the international Day of the Girl Child (11 October) we all need to reflect on how we can make a difference to empower adolescent girls and end the cycle of violence.
The state has a responsibility to change customary and religious practices that are not in consonance with human rights standards. The state must come up with innovative ways to deal with the issue of child marriages through legal reforms. Dialogue and awareness raising must be used to compliment the law as perpetrators need to be engaged to fully understand the gravity with which child marriages must be addressed. Children must be given their right of way.

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Mid Fiscal Policy Review: AN EMPTY BASKET FOR YOUNG WOMEN

The increase on tax on a number of essential goods such as fuel and telecommunications in the mid-fiscal policy review by the Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa is rather ill-fated.  The most unfortunate matter is that it is the ordinary citizen, you and I, who will feel the pinch.

The Zimbabwean government has been facing a number of economic challenges and the Minister has taken it upon himself to alleviate the problems of the nation through the ordinary citizen’s pocket. Rather than addressing the underlying economic issues which led to such an economic situation, the government has chosen to focus on heavy taxation in various sectors of the economy.

The minister alluded that the import duty is set to be increased from zero percent to 40% with effect from 1 November 2014. This is especially disturbing as it comes at a time when plans to phase out public commuter omnibuses (kombis) are on the cards.  This move has implications on transport fares for individuals who do not own personal cars. The consequences of increased taxes are far reaching on the entire economy of Zimbabwe. Increased fuel costs will translate to prices of all products increasing on the market. Many young women in Zimbabwe rely on cross-border trading as a means of sustainable living and the increase of consumer goods such as cooking oil, maize-meal, poultry, soap, beverages and flour. The budget has adverse implications, in that more families will go hungry and children kicked out of school as many mothers will be unable to foot the bills due to increased costs of the transportation, and generally high cost of living. Zimbabwe’s economy largely relies on road transport to ferry both goods and people from one point to another. Even the produce by young women from their subsistence farming requires transport to the major markets such as Bindura, Harare and many others in the country’s towns and cities.

Furthermore, increased fuel costs have a bearing on production costs which affects young women who have engaged in entrepreneurial projects such as market gardening, poultry projects and vending. Also to note is the telecommunications sector which is currently worth an estimated $1, 4 billion and has created employment for a number of young Zimbabweans both in the formal and informal sector. A number of young women who are not privileged to have received education to allow them to work in the formal sector have resorted to selling airtime recharge cards. The implications of increased tax in this sector is that consumers are likely to talk for less and as such this has negative implications on the profit margin for the vendor.

Despite the minister’s mention of having a substantial amount of money  for subsistence farmers in the country (mostly in rural areas and farming communities), there is very little good news for them given what the policy review outlined other than the promise that the government is currently putting measures to ensure that it will provide farming inputs for the 2014/15 agricultural season.  Young women feel that they are being duped with mere promises as evidenced in the past.

IYWD notes with grave concern how the government seems to be focusing solely on getting money in their fiscal coffers which have since run dry rather than the implications on the ordinary young woman of Zimbabwe. A large percentage of these young women are dependent on the informal sector for their sustenance and it is rather unfortunate that the mid-fiscal policy review seems to target a large section of the informal sector. Even after expecting some positivity  from the policy which comes two months later  than expected, young women realize that it is BUT an empty basket with nothing to embrace.

Peace Committee instrumental for Village Development

A Peace Committee established in Mazowe ward 12 Hodobo village has proved to be instrumental in the development of the village. The committee initially set up to deal with different forms of violence against young women and girls among other committees facilitated by IYWD in Mashonaland Central Province has taken initiative to fill potholes and cut grass along a major road that connects people from across the country to Howard Hospital. This has led to the village head Mr Hodobo committing to be part of IYWD’s initiatives as it has brought not only development in his village but also grooming responsible, proactive young women who show leadership in the community. Speaking after the completion of filling potholes on close to 3 kilometre distance, a delighted Peace Committee representative Rebecca Muvavarirwa who recently gave birth and suffered in accessing the hospital due to the poor road network expressed satisfaction in the work done by the young women in fixing the road. “Our main road to Howard Hospital looked very bad and many motorists were avoiding using it, a situation that made it difficult for us to travel to and from the Hospital. As a peace committee during our monthly meeting we realised we could do something to show the council and the community that sometimes we need to look for solutions with what we have and took out to collect rubbles and sand to fill the potholes’’ remarked Rebecca.

Initially this action was viewed as a partisan action and the young women were sanctioned to stop. ‘Because we are just young women who want to develop our village and ourselves we stood our ground and continued with the work undisturbed, even knowing that those who were condemning this equally benefit from the development of the road. As a result other women from the community came to join and we achieved this together. We are even happier our village head vaHodobo ended up supporting us and commended IYWD for organising us and the knowledge they are imparting to us’.

Having seen and heard about such an applaudable development by the Hodobo Peace Committee other peace committees in the ward and other nearby wards have vowed not to only wait for issues of violence but also take the lead in being the change they want to see in their localities.

Speaking at the sidelines of the action by young women the local councillor for ward 12 Mr Muzhira encouraged the young women to assist the council in developing their locality while the council looks into what they can do to enhance service delivery in the community. He commended the young women for organising themselves at such a critical time and motivated for the inclusion of young women in decision making structures such as the ‘committee of 7’ that presides over developmental and policy issues at village level and also council structures.

The IYWD facilitated the creation of peace committees in some wards in districts in Mashonaland Central Province. The committees are community mechanisms to address violence against young women and girls and also seek to represent the voice of young women in the traditional judicial system. Upon their creation last year and early this year, Mashonaland Central was rated highest on violence with a gender violence rate recorded at 56%[1]. The peace committees comprise of young women, traditional chiefs, health workers, religious leaders, and Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) police officers in some instances. The young women are always the majority to ensure the domination of their voice within the committees. With such developmental initiatives by Peace Committees IYWD acknowledges that peace does not only mean the absence of violence but also positive peace that includes various developmental actions and as such the committees are still fulfilling their mandate.

Pictures…

IYWD members collecting sand

IYWD members collecting sand

and filling up potholes along the Gweshe-Howard road

and filling up potholes along the Gweshe-Howard road

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A section of the Howard Mazowe road

Progress made on the road so far

Progress made on the road so far

IYWD strongly condemns political violence in Mt Darwin

The occurrence of politically motivated violence has dreadful and lasting effects on women and children. The two socially vulnerable groups can be equated to ‘the grass that suffers’ when elephants fight. Where homes are destroyed women are left with a burden to care and provide for their children and families while children withdraw from school and are faced with many other inhuman situations. The trauma that comes with the experience can also not be underestimated and leaves an indelible mark in the lives of the women and children that will make them hate participating in any processes of development and governance. Such is the sad and disheartening experience of the families of the four leaders of Johane Masowe yeVadzidzi in the Gomo area, Chiswiti in Mt Darwin whose homes were destroyed in a suspected politically motivated violence case last week.    The Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) condemns in strongest terms the occurrence of such acts which are against the spirit and letter of the country’s constitution that guarantees citizens of Zimbabwe freedoms of association and conscience in accordance with Sections 58 and 60 respectively.

The IYWD is deeply concerned about the resurfacing of acts of violence of that nature amidst a time when the organisation is investing intensively in awareness raising and putting in place community mechanisms to curb violence against women in some of the districts in the Province. Mashonaland Central keeps on the top on the prevalence rate of gender violence, which undisputedly affects women and children more. According to reports by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Gender and Community Development of March 2013, Mash Central recorded 56% prevalence rate of gender violence against Matebeleland North’s lowest at 17%.  Tentative statistics by the same Ministry indicate a sharp increase in cases of violence against women to 88% in Mashonaland Central and still being the highest recorded. The IYWD is worried continuous eruptions of violence develop an unhealthy culture of violence and impunity that keeps putting lives of women and girls at risk. Violence also exacerbates the already high levels of poverty among the rural communities.

The IYWD has pleaded with the local police to diligently do their job and bring the perpetrators to book. At the same time the organisation appealed to the traditional leaders in the area to deal with the perpetrators as a way of castigating acts of violence in their area.

The IYWD is a civic, feminist organisation that promotes the participation of young women in decision making at all levels, and has through its work witnessed how violence against women continues to marginalise the young women’s voice. It is in that vein that the organisation is investing in efforts to curb all forms of violence against women and girls and in their localities.

Stakeholders agree that ‘we all have a role’ to ensure improvement in social services delivery in rural and peri-urban communities

“It is very true the state of services delivery in our entire provincial locality, rural and urban areas is in a bad state and young women suffer the most both as recipients and caregivers in their families and communities. It is important that they actively take part in council chambers, WADCOs (Ward Development Committees) and VIDCOs (Village Development Committees) where decisions are made and influence local authorities priorities. ” these were remarks   by a representative from the office of the Minister of State and Provincial Affairs  at a stakeholders meeting to yesterday launch IYWD’s report on a Survey on Young Women’s Access to and Quality of Social Services.

The research findings which covered three basic services of water, sanitation and primary health care indicated how the unavailability of these services disadvantages especially young women and girls more in their communities. In most of the areas covered by the research young women and girls spend a lot of time in search of water instead of being in school and miss out participating in activities by civil society organisations to empower them .  As the IYWD launched the report, it sought commitment from the different stakeholders present to join hands with the organisation awareness raising, promoting practices that ameliorate the situation and most importantly ensure that young women and girls become part of decision makers on social services in their localities.

The different stakeholders who participated in the meeting included were representatives from the office of the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs,the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Gender and Community Development, the Ministry of Labour and Social Services, Provincial and District Administrator’s from the 4districts covered in the research and other civil society organisations that included ,  ZimRights, Africa Publishing and Development Trust (ACPDT),Real Open Opportunities for Transformation Support (Roots), New Ziana and young women representatives from the areas covered by the research. CSOs were urged to engage the ward coordinators and health workers whose efforts are hampered by lack of resources and work with them as assistants in awareness raising and changing perceptions and attitudes of communities towards practices of responsible citizenship viz a viz social services. All the participants were in agreement that there was need for strong collaborations between the NGOs, the local councils and the government ministries for a collective effort towards helping the situation. IYWD was encouraged to ensure that they also need to hold local government authorities at local level accountable. Follow the link to download the full report:

https://iywd.wordpress.com/publications/iywd-survey-report/

The meeting in pictures

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Bring back our girls!

More and more it is no longer about the girls, but about selfish interests. We are stirred that our missing Nigerian sisters, now seem to be just but poker chips in a poker game through celebrity marketing, organisations positioning for fundraising for girls; Nigerian politicians eyeing the 2015 elections; regional, global politics and security mind games all framed as legitimate responses to rescue the Chibok girls. At first even the president did not even treat the matter with the urgency it deserves; to him it was probably an incident out of the ordinary. Young women are abducted every so often and it is normal he did not see the need to sound the alarm bells. This commodification of the plight of the African women and children should not be left to go on. Someone is most probably going to make a movie out of this incident, and the royalties and proceeds will never reach the girls and the women, in Chibok; more militarisation will happen and maybe more sophisticated guns and technology for tracking will be bought, when schools have no books. More fundraisers will be held for Chibok and Nigeria girls and the funds may never reach the village. Our sisters in the meanwhile are in captive, abused and bruised, waiting for someone to rescue them. If they are found and rescued, they will be celebrated and then be forgotten. One may write or live to tell the story, but this world will have moved on. My appeal to everyone is, let it be genuinely about the GIRLS and as IYWD we are with the girls in spirit and pray for their safe return.

In the meantime we condemn the ban of the Bring Back Our Girls movement in Nigeria by theNigerian police and appeal to our Nigerian counterparts to remain resolute and persist in using all lawful means to sustain peaceful advocacy for the safe rescue of the Chibok Girls.

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Abuse of women under the guise of religion

Religious and cultural beliefs, coupled with mobility bottlenecks, have been cited as major challenges militating against our attempts to reach out to as many marginalised young women and girls as possible in Mashonaland Central province. Members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church, dominate areas such as Madziwa in Shamva district, Musara, Trojan Mine and Guruve. Young women and girls are denied education, medical treatments and attending workshops such as those offered by IYWD on the basis of religious beliefs. In a number of the communities we have worked in, young women from this church have been denied permission to attend our meetings. The Johanne Marange Apostolic Church is widely seen as a deceptive and secretive community that does not go public about its issues as a result the few young women we managed to talk to preferred to remain     anonymous. One woman said that she got married to her husband who is a member of the church and was whipped  to follow the church’s doctrines .She had a steady educational background before   marrying this man with outstanding Advanced level grades but because women are not allowed to be learn and or work but just to remain housewives she cannot make anything out of her qualifications. “I would have loved to pursue teaching had I been granted the opportunity but because we are not allowed to do so there is nothing I can do”. Another young woman in the area was cautioned by her husband after she received an IYWD flyer from a member. Such oppressive and discriminatory acts contravene the Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms accorded to everyone in our constitution, particularly right to equality and non-discrimination, right to education, right to health, the right to freedom of association, freedom of conscience and access to information.Members of this church often have large families mostly because they do not use any form of contraceptives, a dangerous practice that poses health hazards to the women also as they are not allowed to go to hospitals.   . The children are also extremely disadvantaged and vulnerable, growing up in large families, not accorded access to education and health.

IYWD members stood up for their inclusion in a school BEAM Committee

Young women attending a School Development (SDC) meeting at Trojan Mine Primary School to elect a new chairperson for the BEAM committee almost boycotted the meeting following a decision by the majority of the participants in the meeting mostly men to choose a men for the post of the chairperson which was previously held by yet another man whom the community accused of misusing the educational support funds during his term. The men having been the majority at the meeting almost made a unanimous agreement to appoint another man, without putting the issue to vote. This angered the women who were at the meeting. A young woman member of IYWD present stood up and questioned why the men keep on nominating each other yet the committees continued to mismanage school resources at the expense of young girls and boys who needed the support for their education. The men tried to defend their nomination and all the young women who were at the meeting stood up and threatened to boycott the meeting. The men feeling the situation getting out of hand called back the women to the meeting where the post was re-declared vacant and put to vote. The majority of the women present were young women and members of IYWD. They seized the opportunity and collectively voted for Tambudzai for the post of the chairperson. This was such a historic action at Trojan Mine were people were accustomed to having men make appointees of other men into positions unchallenged. The young women celebrated their victory and it is indeed a reflection of power in numbers and speaking with one voice. The IYWD is proud and congratulates Tambudzai on her new leadership position.     

Zimbabwe @ 34

There is no denying the importance of our Independence Day and the huge sacrifices made during the liberation struggle. The big question is whether the sense of pride in this day can be re-ignited in the present generation of Zimbabweans for whom life is a daily struggle. We are also not turning a blind eye to the steps that have been taken towards women’s emancipation and their recognition as citizens since our country got its independence. For instance the inclusion of women in cabinet, the coming of our first female vice president affirmative action in parliament and the international conventions and treaties for the advancement of women Zimbabwe has ratified. It’s critical to note that despite these efforts as we celebrate 34years of black rule the fight for the rights, freedom, justice and vital voice of women in Zimbabwe is still far from over.

Zim @ 34, is marked by high levels of poverty among the majority particularly women and youth, unemployment levels have soared to over 80% and the country that was regarded, in the 1980s and 1990s as the breadbasket of Southern Africa, is now a “basket case” heavily dependent on imports and humanitarian aid. Poor governance charactersied by high levels of corruption, poor social services delivery and escalating cases of violence against women (VAW) forms part of the daily sufferings for young women and generality of Zimbabweans.

 

Some young women had this to say about the day:

 

‘I am proud of Zimbabwean independence but I feel we are still a long way to live the independence. Independence should come as a total package of freedom, in the home, in the streets, in the community, everywhere, it should be economically meaningful for me and my voice should be respected!’  

 

‘I think Independence is for those that fought the war because they are the independent ones as for some us we are yet to see the independence, especially those of us who live in the farms…… ma-one!’

 

‘I think our independence day is a great day because of what it represents but the ruling party has taken ownership of the day and it has been politicized. In our community we are encouraged to donate a dollar each towards celebrating this day but what is the point if I pay and the event is a political party rally. Not all of us are interested in party politics.’

 

‘I don’t have anything to celebrate because I am not free and therefore have nothing to celebrate. Those who celebrate have the freedom to celebrate for some of us we are still in the struggle.’

‘I am grateful to the daughters and sons who brought us independence but I feel their vision has been misconstrued. I am still suffering and my life could be better if the vision of the liberation struggle was embraced.’

 

‘I am happy to day for Zimbabwe but I wish us a better life, no jobs, no money, no voice, tiri patight!’

 

‘I am going for independence celebrations and I look forwards to hearing the Zimbabwean story, celebrate in unity and nothing more!’

 

‘34 years of political independence is a long time, worthy celebrating. But when our life situation remains difficult we also need to think deeply about where we are going.’

 

‘I value independence but am indifferent about Zim @34.’

Arrested for Commemorating International Women’s Day

Arrested for Commemorating International Women’s Day

4 young women were arrested and detained for 3 hours for organising an activity to commemorate the International Womens Day (IWD). Glanis Changachirere IYWD Director, programmes staff Gillian Chinzete,  Sekai Nyadzayo and Nyasha Sengayi a women’s rights activist who had come to anchor the event were detained by the suspicious individual purpoting to police officers in Glendale, Mazowe district.   The young women through the Institute for Young Women Development had organised a film festival activity to profile young women’s narratives and their quest to transform their lives.

Lined up for the day was to start by showing a documentary titled Young Women’s Lived Realities that documents the lives of young women from rural, farming and mining communities in rural Mashonaland. This was to be followed up by artistic performances to tell how the young women have worked with the IYWD to transform their lives.

The day which started as an exciting prospect of celebrating young women’s lives was disrupted at the beginning of the activity when IYWD staff and community mobilisers started receiving anonymous threatening calls to cancel the activity with immediate effect. Few moments following the calls, the IYWD staff and Ms Nyasha Sengayi were taken aside the venue by plain clothed and self-acclaimed police officers for questioning while more than 200 young women who had gathered for the commemoration were given an hour’s time to disperse or face unspecified action.  Baffled by this order, the young women demanded reasons and defied the order arguing that they will not disperse as they have commemorated such a day annually without facing such challenges. They said this was their day and would not allow the anyone to spoil it by denying them their right to celebrate themselves.

After a 3hours’ detention, the quad were released and forced to dismiss the women within less than 20minutes, on the pretext that they cannot commemorate IWD before the national launch of the day by the Minister of Women’s Affairs on 26March in Harare. What shocked the team was that the police came later to monitor the activity only to be told that they had ordered for its cancellation. The local district administrator’s office even confirmed to the police that they know and work with IYWD in the area.

Speaking at the sidelines of the gathering young women expressed their disappointment and frustration on being denied to celebrate themselves for such a reason. They lamented such acts are a threat to young women’s security as they do not who the callers were and whether the respect the national call to end violence against women both in their private and public lives.

The IYWD is deeply concerned at such moves which threaten the commitment of the state duty bearers to uphold women’s rights. Zimbabwe has ratified the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women which encourages the eradication of violence against women.  Such elements are therefore acting against the commitment of the Zimbabwean government to protect and provision of women’s rights.

 

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