Anything for us without us is not for us - Child Marriage is a human rights violation (Part 6)

    Let them bloom, which mainly runs under the theme, “Lets joining hands to end child marriages, together we can” is a film series produced by Africa Women Filmmakers Trust with the support from the Canadian Embassy-Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. The documentary is divided into nine volumes, short video clips. Each volume is independent of each other. This means that anyone viewing this series does not necessarily have to follow the order in which the volumes have been presented. The series can be downloaded and viewed on devices such as smart phones and laptops. The film documentary is aimed at providing facilitators as well as learners and the community at large with information on child marriages. The documentary highlights the causes of child marriages in Zimbabwe such as poverty and school dropout. The series also exposes the dangers of early teen pregnancies in young girls. Thus the series teaches the youth especially young girls on the importance of sexual and reproduction health education so that they will not become victims. It calls for a collaborative bargain in ending child marriages.


    (video film recommended for learners between Grade 3 and Form 6)
    The video film highlights that, many young people are forced into marriage because they are pregnant. One of the reasons they get pregnant is because they do not have access to adequate information about their sexual reproductive health rights. This is as a result of strong social cultural taboo around the issue which causes them to suffer in pervasive silence.

    Adults also point out that they are not totally to blame for early marriages. “Often youngsters give a deaf ear when cautioned or advised by their elders” said the parents. So it seems youngsters have deviated from cultural norms regards sexual reproduction and are to blame for the ordeal they go through as a result of early marriage. At the end, parents and guardians end up with more responsibilities of looking after children who are a product of early teen pregnancies. Furthermore, parents and guardians said child marriages do not last and in most cases they are even not recognized. Therefore, there is need to educate adolescence on sexual reproductive health rights so as to end child marriages


    (video film recommended for children between Grade 3 and Form 6)
    This video film highlights that child brides are at a greater risk of developing complications during pregnancy, at birth and even after delivery. Some of the complications are; not being able to keep the pregnancy, delivering big babies that will be difficult to come out since pelvic bones would not have developed fully. So, once a baby forces its way out, the young mother can sustain injuries such as torn bladder. This may result in a complication called fistitula which is continuous leaking of urine, fecal matter or both. At the end, these child brides may suffer double impact – end up separated from the spouse and having complicated health problem like obstetric fistula. An organization called Women and Health International Alliance (WAHA) runs outreach programs whereby they operate women and girls suffering from ruptured bladders and uterine as well as tears. This service is free and targeted to those people who cannot afford to pay for their own reconstructive surgeries to stop the leaking.


    (video film recommended for children between Grade 3 and Form 6)
    There is legislation that has been put in place by the Zimbabwean government that forbids child marriages but there is lack of compliance since child marriages are still taking place as evidenced by increased number of teen pregnancies at hospitals. First pregnancy mothers await birth at hospitals. This is so because if there are any complications they are quickly attended to by specialized personnel. One of the dangers of teen pregnancy, during the pregnancy period is risk of bp- this is pregnancy induced hypertension and anaemia. Another danger outside pregnancy is prolonged labour, delivering low birth weight baby and poor attachment since the young mother is not yet mature. In all this there is health risk because the girls are not yet fully developed physically and emotionally.


    (video film recommended for children between Grade 3 and Form 6)
    Child marriages are a human rights violations so there is need for collaborative effort in ending this menace. T is depicted that some girls fall victims to HIV on their first sexual encounter because they have no negotiation powers unlike adults who can negotiate for safe sex if they suspect that a partner is unfaithful. Girls will even find themselves out of school due to early pregnancies. So when girls go through early marriages they are often subjected to poverty, sexual abuse and gender based violence.

    Early marriages occur most of the time out of choice. Some of the reasons or circumstances contributing to child marriage are poverty. The position of government is that, Girls who fall prey to early pregnancies need not be condemned but given a second chance such as sending them back to school so that they find themselves again. Thus ending child marriages will enable a country to develop its full potential. So it is necessary to end child marriages.


    (video film recommended for children between Grade 3 and Form 6)
    Many child brides are forced into marriages due to cultural, traditional and religious customs. It is also evident that girls who marry early have more children at a young age as compared to those who marry latter in life. There are also more likely to live in poverty. So, many, resort to harsh and mammoth tasks to earn a living.

    For example, Martha, who is a mother of one says that she got married when she was doing form 3 and was only 17 years old. She and her husband eke a living through gold panning and are not getting much out of it. Another victim of early marriage is Brian who says that he got married when he was 18 and the wife was 15. The couple’s level of education did not go beyond grade 7 and have 2 children. The couple, also engage in gold panning as a way of life and it is hard. Another girl who got into early marriage due to religious beliefs says that she got married at the age of 15 and was educated up to grade 4 since her father had passed on and the mother was asthmatic. Had a child who passed on at a religious conference when it was only 5 days old. She is wife number 5 and now belongs to the Johane Marange religious sector. The husband is a gold panner.

    So, from these testimonies, it proves that child marriages perpetuate a cycle of poverty hence there is a need for collaborative effort to end child marriages.


    (video film recommended for children between Grade 3 and Form 6)
    Educating girls and ending child marriages is essential for them to have agency not only as mothers and wives but also beyond those roles since this has profound effect on their children in future. Elizabeth, who learns at Chisambura primary school, testifies that she was expelled from school due to unpaid fees and is panning chrome to raise school fees. Mrs Chididze also out of poverty pans chrome so as to raise school fees for her two children who were expelled from school due to fees debt. Another wife who is weary from performing daily routine at home and panning activities says she is not getting enough money for food and school fees. What is common among these females is the belief that remaining in school for a longer period is an escapade from child marriages hence girls are working alongside mothers in a bid to raise school fees. Thus low educational attainment and child marriages both affect girl’s life trajectory in profound ways.


    Child marriages have consequences on the society as a whole and the nation at large, but mainly it is the girl child who suffers. Girls who fall victims of early teen pregnancies need to be given a second chance in life as throwing them to the periphery will perpetuate a circle of poverty. Ending child marriage should be everyone’s responsibility hence a need to join hands a to end child marriages

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Africa Women Filmmakers Trust works to advance gender equality and justice through the use of information and communication technologies by facilitating
content production and dissemination that supports girls, women and disadvantaged communities to take informed choices.