The best parent any child can get is the society in which the child lives therefore, in this case, the worst thing society can do is neglecting its duty by letting the child be the parent.
Sadly, each morning we wake up to skate on such thin ice due to the high prevalence of child marriages in Zimbabwe.
According to Plan International, this social ill is defined as ‘any marriage where at least one of the parties is under 18 years of age.”
The Zimbabwe National Students Unions (Zinasu) at Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) stands firm in denouncing such acts as they destroy the future of many potential leaders in society.
Excruciatingly, 31 percent of girls are in dire straits and more of them could end up in this situation if this social evil is left to breathe.
Statistical data by Plan International indicates that four percent of the girls were married under 15 years of age.
Furthermore, 60 percent of women aged between 18 and 24 have had sexual intercourse before the age of 18.
Each and every part of the society must stand firm to react before this epidemic turns to be a pandemic situation. The union believes unity is the solution when tackling such a problem.
Efforts towards poverty eradication must be made by government. Economic instability has profoundly been a contributing factor to the upbringing of this animal called “child marriages”.
Putting into consideration the cases recorded in Mashonaland Central (50 percent), Mashonaland West (42 percent), Midlands (42 percent) and other provinces; there is need for the government to beat the clock.
In one stroke, there is need to create an environment that can accommodate one’s dream, reward sweat and remunerate pain!
This enables the biological parents, guardians and even the society at large to assist a child before light is replaced by darkness.
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
The girls at risk of dropping out of education should be supported morally and financially through the introduction of more scholarships and programmes like Basic Education Module (Beam) by government, churches, civic organisations and companies.
GZU Zinasu believes in the saying that if you educate the girl child you have educated a nation but the question is: What role should you play to deal with child marriages? Identifying that role would lead to prevention, reduction of the rate of child marriages.
The factor behind the rise of this evil is for good men to do nothing, to borrow the words of Edmund Burke.
The existence of marriage legal instruments plays a crucial role in efforts to prevent and control child marriages. These laws should, however, be implemented, enforced and monitored without fail.
The 2013 Constitution specifically sections 78, 56 and 26, Domestic Violence Act and Customary Marriages Act are key when dealing with this cancer.
The laws do not only focus on vulnerable children living in the shadows of child marriages but also those already swimming in the dead pool, facing vices like gender based violence.
The judicial sector should henceforth act in total commitment to fight the vice of child marriages and punish offenders.
GZU Zinasu believes that the fight against child marriages can also be won if government unveils programmes to help poor students meet their fees requirements.
Students from poor families are vulnerable to abuse by older men and many of them drop out of school after failing to pay tuition, get married early and bear children who will be equally vulnerable. The cycle continues over and over again unless there is some deliberate effort on the part of all stakeholders to make a change.
It is against this background that GZU Zinasu believes a child’s life should be like piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.
The word orphan should not exist in a country like ours where resources can be shared more equitably to ensure that the economic factors behind child marriages are destroyed.
The writer is the Zinasu president at GZU