Community child protection committees fights early child marriages in Hwange

Despite being closer to the resort town of Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the vast Hwange National game park, most communities in the rural areas of Hwange in Matabeleland North are food insecure and experience grinding poverty.

Lovemore Nyoni- Hwange ADP manager

Lovemore Nyoni- Hwange ADP manager

Major economic activity for some of the communities in the area include young girls, some as young as 14 selling wild fruits and curios along the Bulawayo /Victoria Falls high way.

Apart from selling fruits and wares along the High way, some young girls are selling their bodies in exchange for sex with truck drivers and nearby mining workers while some teenagers are being coerced by their parents to marry older men who earn money through the mining activities.

Hwange district is known to have got a high number of orphans and people living with HIV and AIDS.

Beatrice Savadye, the director of Roots said child marriages is most prevalent in rural and marginalised communities where access to information is very limited.

”We have seen that child marriage is very rampant in mining and farming communities where poverty is the major key driver “said Savadye.

In the wake of poverty, child labour and sexual abuse cases  ,the ministry of social welfare in conjunction with   World  Vision’s  Hwange Central Area Development programme  has trained and established ward child protection committees in six administrative wards of Hwange  district. The World Vision area development programme covers the following wards: Nekatambe, Change, Nekabandama, Mashala, Simangani and Sidinda.

“The function of these committees which we have set up in all the wards is to campaign and raise awareness on children rights and abuses. These all inclusive gender committees have also managed to monitor incidences of child marriages and statutory rape cases   in the area “said Lovemore Nyoni, Hwange ADP manager.

Nyoni accused some families of abetting early child marriages in the district by allowing their daughters to be married by older men in return of monetary gains.

“We have heard of cases where families actually allow their daughters to be married at tender ages because of poverty and sometimes traditional practices” said the ADP manager.

Hwange district with over 3 400 households, predominantly made up of the Nambya and Dombe speaking communities is still one of the few places in the country where the inhabitants are still practicing undiluted traditional practices.

Local councillor and one of the child protection committee members, Aliwisa Chiuswa said a lot of children and villagers have benefitted from this programme.

“ The child protection committees have been carrying out awareness campaigns at  public meetings, churches , schools and even beer halls about the consequences  of child abuse , child labour as well  child marriages. Society should never perpetuate these unholy vices to our children “said Chiuswa.

Chiuswa said recently the child protection committee in his area exposed a case where a grade six pupil was being sodomised by a local man.

“As a child focused organisation, WV will continue to work with communities to strengthen community led child care and child protection marriages issues” said Nyoni.

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