Home News Child Marriages: A Tragic Reality in Mutoko’s Makaha Mining Area

Child Marriages: A Tragic Reality in Mutoko’s Makaha Mining Area


Child marriages is a global issue that affects millions of young girls every year. According to the Zimbabwe Multiple Cluster Survey 2019, one woman out of three in Zimbabwe (aged 20 to 49) was married before age 18 and 5% of girls were married before age 15.

In Zimbabwe, the situation is particularly alarming in mining towns, where poverty, lack of education, and cultural norms combine to make child marriages a tragic reality for many young girls.

Small mining towns in Zimbabwe are often characterised by extremes of poverty, lack of basic services, and a high prevalence of child labour.

These conditions make it difficult for families to provide for their children’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and education.

As a result, many families see early marriages as a way to alleviate financial pressures and provide for their daughters.

However, child marriage has devastating consequences for young girls, including increased risk of domestic violence, sexual and reproductive health problems, and limited educational and economic opportunities.

These consequences are particularly severe in mining towns, where girls are often exposed to dangerous working conditions and face additional risks of exploitation and abuse.

One example of a mining area where child marriage is prevalent in Makaha in Mutoko, located in the Mashonaland East province of Zimbabwe.

In Makaha, poverty is widespread, and access to education and health care is limited.

Many families in the area rely on mining for their livelihoods, and child labour is common. As a result, many young girls are forced into early marriages as a way to escape poverty and provide for their families.

One such girl is 14-year-old Tariro, whose parents are both miners in Makaha. Tariro’s family struggles to make ends meet, and they saw early marriage as a way to secure a better future for their daughter.

Tariro was married off to a 35-year-old miner, who promised to provide for her and her family. However, the reality was far from what Tariro’s parents had hoped for.

Tariro was forced to drop out of school at Kapondoro Secondary and work in the mines alongside her husband, exposing her to dangerous working conditions and putting her health and safety at risk.

“My parents are poor and they don’t have a decent place to stay since we were relocated from our home by a Chinese company doing mining at our homestead in 2019.
Since then we moved to Makaha where we are all relying on mining.

“My father could not afford to send me and my siblings to school and l ventured into mining as a means of survival. Last year my father forced me to get married to Neverson Chibanda who is a miner here.

“ I tried to object but my parents blackmailed me saying if l refuse the whole family was going to die of hunger including my two-year-old sister Chenai and l would be the responsible for that.

“They both pleaded with me to marry Chibanda saying they also wanted the best for me. When I was three months pregnant l had some complications and was told to go to All Souls Mission Hospital where l was admitted for two months.

“l really wanted to see my husband visiting me every day but he only visited me twice and he was not even supporting me with anything. Unfortunately, l had a miscarriage (tears flowing).

“He was called to come and pay the hospital bills and he refused saying he was very busy at the mine. When l went back home we realised that he was staying with another woman of my age.

“I pleaded with my parents that l wanted to come back home but they refused saying l should stay with my husband. He started abusing me every time he came from the mine.

“He could beat me and shout at me that l killed his baby which wasn’t true at all. After two months l ran away with my life and now am staying here at Makaha shopping centre where l am surviving on prostitution as a means of survival.

“My parents no longer want to see me. l don’t like the life l’m living here. l am destitute, we are always abused by different men (makorokoza) demanding unprotected sex and some will refuse to pay us after that,” she said.

A child is defined as every boy or girl below the age of 18, (Section 3 (81), Constitution of Zimbabwe).

Child marriage is a marital union where either spouse is below 18 years of age, although girls are disproportionately the most affected.

In Zimbabwe, child marriage is on a steady decrease, though this phenomenon is common in mining towns, farming communities and border towns.

Tariro’s story is not unique. Many young girls in mining towns in Zimbabwe are forced into early marriages as a way to provide for their families.

“l am 16 years old, l got married when l was 14 and my husband is 32. l got married because l wanted a good life and as you know miners have got some money. My parents are poor.

” My husband is a womaniser and l have made peace with it. Sometimes he spends a week without coming back home and am used to it.

“This gives me a chance to do what l want with other boyfriends of my age when l am home alone. l don’t miss him when he is not at home. What l just want from him is money, ” said Beauty Dzapasi.

“I knew it was wrong, but I had no choice. My parents could not afford to take care of us, and I thought I would be better off married. But I was wrong.

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“I am still a child, but I have to work like an adult. I miss school, and I miss my family. l am afraid one of my best friends Tindo passed away because of HIV and AIDS which l suspect l have because my health is deteriorating day by day and l am afraid to get tested,” said Chido Katsande a 15-year-old.

Early pregnancy is one of the causes and consequences of this harmful practice. Girls who marry early are more likely to experience violence, abuse, and forced sexual relations due to unequal power relations.
They are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (including HIV).

According to Plan International, going to school gives girls choices and opportunities in life, allowing them to play an active role in their communities and break the cycle of poverty.

Girls who are married are unlikely to be in school. Education, including comprehensive sexuality education, is essential for girls to be able to make informed decisions about their sexual health and well-being.

However, Tariro, feels her future has been stolen since she wanted to become a nurse but with her situation, she has lost hope.

“I want to go back to school and become a nurse, but I don’t know if that will ever happen. I feel like my future has been taken away from me. l feel like an old person and what will the whole community say about me ?” she asked.

However, there are organisations and individuals working to address this issue and support young girls in these communities.

One such organisation is Shamwari Yemwanasikana, a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to empowering underprivileged children and building a brighter future for the next generation.

Speaking to Great Dyke News 24, the organisation’s Development and Partnerships Manager Lisa Bonongwe said they seek to address the challenges affecting the girl child by providing a range of programmes and services that support the physical, emotional and intellectual development of children.

“As Shamwari Yemwanasikana, we believe child marriage is an oxymoron and a misnomer because there should be no child in marriage.

“With statistics showing that 1 in 3 girls under 18 years get married, we are concerned about whether the laws in place are taking effect.

“We have the recently passed Children’s Amendment Act, which in line with the Zimbabwe constitution provides legislation for children who are forced into marriages, yet our children are still being married off in our very communities, as long as there is a bride price and the family is in agreement.

” In addition, terminology such as ‘child marriages’ has underplayed and sanitised the levels of child abuse and sexual exploitation that girls undergo through this process, resultantly pre-accepting that a child can be in marriage,” she said.

Another example of an organisation working to address the issue of child marriages in mining towns is the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA).

ZWLA provides legal support and advocacy for women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence and discrimination.
The organisation has been working to raise awareness about child marriages and their negative consequences in mining towns. It has been instrumental in advocating for the rights of young girls in these communities.

While organisations like Shamwari Yemwanasikana and ZWLA are making a difference, there is still much work to be done to address the issue of child marriages in mining towns in Zimbabwe.

 Ms. Åsa Pehrson, Ambassador of Sweden to Zimbabwe, and Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, recently signed a funding agreement of USD 5.8 million to support child protection programmes in Zimbabwe. 

“Sweden believes that efficient protection is essential to the children’s well being because, as vulnerable people, they are more exposed to issues of mistreatment, exploitation, discrimination, and violence”, she said.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare Simon Masanga said the government’s aim is to create a Zimbabwe fit for children through strategic partnerships and to expand child protection financing through the Child Protection Fund.

“Government of Zimbabwe is committed to addressing all forms of violence against children to ensure that every child grows in a safe, secure, and protective environment.

“Our aim is to create a Zimbabwe fit for children through strategic partnerships and to expand child protection financing through the Child Protection Fund.

“Government expresses its gratitude to the people of Sweden for the continued financial support towards the protection of vulnerable persons in Zimbabwe over the years.

“The support rendered today will go a long way in improving the well-being of children, particularly those who are marginalised and vulnerable,” he said.

Through its USD 5.8 million funding to UNICEF, Sweden will support the efforts of the Government of Zimbabwe in five programme areas that are critical to protect children against violence, abuse and exploitation.

These are : (1) access to response services for the most vulnerable children through the National Case Management System; (2) prevention of Violence Against Children and Gender Based Violence through interventions that address harmful practices, social and gender norms and behavioural drivers of violence; (3) access to justice for children; (4) access to birth registration services; and (5) policy, legal and regulatory framework improvements.

In the meantime, young girls like Tariro continue to suffer the devastating consequences of child marriage.

As a society, we must do more to protect the rights of young girls and ensure that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Only then can we truly address the issue of child marriages and create a more just and equitable society for all.

NB. Please note, the names of the children under 18 are not the real names to protect their identities.


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