Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
According to a 2022 press release by UNICEF, in Zimbabwe, one out of three young girls enters into marriage before reaching their 18th birthday. Child marriage often results from gender disparities in developing countries. Girls Not Brides explains that “child marriage is rooted in gender inequality” and “poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices and insecurity” exacerbate it. Child marriage in Zimbabwe limits future possibilities for women and perpetuates cycles of poverty.

Child Marriage in Zimbabwe: Contributing Factors

By June 2021, the number of individuals living in extreme poverty in Zimbabwe rose to almost 8 million. The Guardian reported that “child marriage in Zimbabwe is often driven by poverty.” Families living in poverty often push their young daughters into marriage because the “bride price” the family receives will reduce the household’s financial burden.

Aside from economic reasons, there is a cultural and religious ideology that condones marrying off young girls. Specifically, indigenous apostolic religious groups have a higher number of child marriages. The doctrine of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe directs that girls must wed between the ages of 12 and 16 in order to prevent premarital sexual relations. Furthermore, many indigenous apostolic churches in Zimbabwe prohibit girls from returning to school once married.

Whereas 33% of girls in Zimbabwe entered into marriage before the age of 18, for boys, this rate is just 2%. The lack of education among women further pushes them into oppression, limiting job prospects and forcing women to rely on their husbands economically. According to a UNICEF statistic, as of 2021, only 14% of females in Zimbabwe attain an upper secondary education.

Human Rights Watch highlights the implications of child marriage: “Child marriage in Africa often ends a girl’s education, exposes her to domestic violence and grave health risks from early childbearing and HIV and traps her in poverty.”

The Women Advocacy Project (WAP) Zimbabwe

In efforts to decrease child marriage in Zimbabwe, the Women Advocacy Project Zimbabwe, a partner of U.S.-based The Advocacy Project, provides the support young girls need to thrive. The specific child marriage program looks to raise $5,000 via the GlobalGiving platform to train five local Zimbabwean girls to become community leaders. As leaders, these girls will be able to action community-wide change to bring an end to child marriage in Zimbabwe. These girl leaders will educate others about women’s rights, the far-reaching implications of child marriage, the benefits of obtaining an education and how to safeguard oneself from abuse.

The leaders will also “identify 25 girls in each of their communities who are at risk of marrying early and assist them in choosing better options,” the project page says. Each leader will form a “Give Us Books, Not Husbands” club in their local communities. The club aims to change beliefs and attitudes regarding child marriage.

WAP expects the project to reduce rates of child marriage in Zimbabwe and increase school attendance and completion rates among girls.

The Good News

The advocacy work of organizations has created lasting impacts. On May 27, 2022, the President of Zimbabwe signed into law the Marriages Act, legally prohibiting the marriage of individuals younger than 18. This means that child marriage is now a criminal offense.

The piece of legislation brings hope to the fight against child marriage, however, implementation and enforcement will play a critical role in actioning change.

– Micaela Carrillo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Child Marriage in ZimbabweChild Marriage in Zimbabwe has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without schools functioning in person, children have less protection and experience more human rights violations such as child marriage and pregnancy.

Child marriage in Zimbabwe greatly predates the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that efforts to eliminate the practice will require a wide range of economic and cultural mitigation tactics rather than focusing solely on the eradication of the coronavirus.

Current Events

The topic of child marriage in Zimbabwe caught international attention recently when 14-year-old Memory Machaya died during childbirth. The practice is common in Zimbabwe’s Apostolic Church and has led to an online petition entitled “justice for Memory Machaya” garnering nearly 60,000 signatures.

“Female persons are not seen as fully human, with individual rights, choice, right to control our own bodies,” said Zimbabwean feminist activist Everjoice Win in a tweet on August 6, 2021 “The enemy is patriarchy, and the attendant systems within the state and religious institutions and wider society, which do not see us as humans.”

Introduction to Child Marriage in Zimbabwe

Almost one in three Zimbabwean women are married by the time they turn 18. The practice most often occurs in the poorer regions of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West regions, where 50% and 42% of girls, respectively, marry as children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Despite the fact that the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court deemed the practice of child marriage as unconstitutional in January 2016, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, child marriage in Zimbabwe persists.

What Drives Child Marriage?

The risks for child marriage in Zimbabwe have the potential to exist domestically but require unequivocal participation from healthcare providers. In a 2016-2020 healthcare plan, The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Strategy allowed 16-year-olds to receive contraception without parental consent. However, providers remain reluctant and child services are scarce.

Lack of education also drives child marriage in Zimbabwe. The same 2014 survey found that “the average age at marriage is 17.2 years for girls with no education and 23.6 for girls with more than a secondary education.” Nearly half of 15- to 19-year-olds without a secondary education began having children compared to only one in five girls the same age who completed their secondary education.

Potential Solutions

UNICEF published a list of strategies that it plans to implement throughout Western and Central Africa to reduce child marriage. The organization cites the growing child population in Africa behind the urgency in their efforts.

The following practices will help UNICEF reduce child marriage in the year 2021:

  1. Enable At-Risk Girls to Stay in School Through Secondary Education: UNICEF sees education as an opportunity for at-risk girls to develop vital life skills to make their own life choices and stand up for their rights. As this article previously mentioned, the rate at which girls marry depends on the presence or lack of secondary education.
  2. Fuel Positive Opinions Regarding the Investment in Girls: Through community discussion, the opinions of whether to invest and value the lives of girls could help in promoting and implementing practices that limit or eliminate child marriage.
  3. Provide Adequate and Affordable Health and Education of High Quality: Not only is the presence of education and health care important, but the quality is as well. Without providing affordable and effective health care and education systems, girls are at a greater risk of falling into the cycle of child marriage.
  4. Promote Laws to Match “International Standards” and Ensure the Implementation of the Measures: An effective strategy could be to identify countries or regions with an anti-child-marriage framework and incorporate the successes of those systems in the context of Western and Central Africa.
  5. Partner with Governments to Monitor Progress and Data: By utilizing the services of surveillance and relevant technologies of other countries, Western and Central African nations can adequately track progress to ensure that they are meeting set goals.

While the practice of child marriage in Zimbabwe has deep roots, the international community has taken notice and has a plan to reduce its prevalence. With increased empowerment and investment in young Zimbabwean girls, child marriage will soon enough become much less commonplace and eventually, experience eradication.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Zimbabwe
According to UNICEF, child marriage is “any formal marriage or informal union between a child under the age of 18 and an adult or another child.” Although rates of child marriage have declined, the practice remains widespread. Unfortunately, child marriage impacts approximately one in five girls today. According to UNICEF, about 12 million child marriages occur each year. Consequently, more than 120 million girls may marry before they turn 18 years old by 2030. Child marriage in Zimbabwe is especially prevalent.

How it Impacts Children

Child marriage is a human rights violation. Additionally, it restricts girls from achieving their potential in education, social bonding, friendship, simple maturation and the right to choose a life partner.

Moreover, girls who marry young face great health risks. Dr. Nawal M. Nour, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital explains “child marriage is driven by poverty and has many effects on girls’ health: increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, death during childbirth and obstetric fistulas.” Many nations such as Zimbabwe are working to implement policies and programs to educate and ban the practice of child marriage.


Zimbabwe banned marriage for children under 16 years old in 2016. As a result, the practice is on a steady decrease. However, child marriage continues to persist in most impoverished areas in the country.

Many low-income families choose to marry off their child due to a lack of income to support their basic necessities such as food and clothes. According to Girls Not Brides, many marriages result in some type of transactional agreement. Oftentimes, the husband gives the family money in exchange for their daughter. Unfortunately, many families use this money to survive.

Many organizations exist that are trying to prevent child marriage by creating safety nets that protect vulnerable families from the economic factors that predicate child marriage. Furthermore, young women are fighting against child marriage in Zimbabwe. In particular, one 17-year-old martial arts fan is showing girls that they have a fighting chance.

Vulnerable Underaged People’s Auditorium Initiative

Natsiraishe Maritsa started a taekwondo program called the Vulnerable Underaged People’s Auditorium Initiative to fight child marriage in Zimbabwe. Despite her limited resources, Maritsa was able to carve out a community of young fighters in the face of an oppressive system.

Young children gather at Maritsa’s home to practice taekwondo. She leads her people in drills and teaches them how to stretch kick and punch. After each class, they discuss the dangers of child marriage in Zimbabwe. Many cases of child marriage result in marital rape. However, Maritsa’s group sessions provide girls with a safe place to heal and reach catharsis. According to the Associated Press, she hopes to “increase the confidence of both the married and single girls through the martial arts lessons and the discussions that follow.”

Child marriage in Zimbabwe is a problem that continues to hurt communities in impoverished areas. Fortunately, many people are working to prevent these circumstances. The future for children in low-income households is steadily improving in Zimbabwe.

– Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr