UNICEF commemorates the Day of the African Child, with a call to eliminate harmful practices against children
By Charmaine Brown
Calls for ending harmful practices such as child marriages and violent against children have been made as Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating the Day of the African Child which is celebrated each year on June 16.
Child marriage remains widespread in Zimbabwe and girls need to be given the opportunity to develop their full potential as equal members of society.
This year’s theme is “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy & Practice since 2013”.
During a press conference convened by UNICEF Representative Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, Deputy Minister of Women Affairs, Small and Medium Enterprise Development ,Jennifer Mhlanga; UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon; UN Women Representative, Ms Fatou Aminata Lo, and UNPFA Representative, Dr. Esther Muia, met to discuss the issues concerning child marriages in Zimbabwe calling the media to be active partners in the roll-out of strategies to tackle the issue.
“The Government Of Zimbabwe has put in place institutions, law and policies that guard against child marriage in the country. I am happy that on 27 May 2022 the President of Zimbabwe signed into law The Marriages Act that prohibits the marriage of minors under the age of 18,” said Minister Jennifer Mhlanga.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon said : “The United Nations in Zimbabwe through the newly adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Framework (2022-2026) promotes interventions to tackle poverty, eliminate Gender Based Violence and all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage. A number of UN initiatives including the Spotlight Initiative continue to champion the prevention of child marriages in the Country.”
Child marriage disrupts childhood and deprives girls of their right to be a child. It deprives girls of their rights to acquire appropriate skills to enter the labor force as adults pushing them further into poverty. Child marriage also increases the risk of domestic violence, psychological and physical violence, including sexual violence, and HIV-infections.
“UNICEF is grateful to the partners who responded to our invitation to join hands to increase public awareness on the high percentage of girls being married before 18, and to call on everybody to act against child marriage,” said Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative.
Speaking on the same occasion UN Women Representative, Ms. Fatou Aminata Lo added that it needs behavioural change in the community to speak out against child marriages.
“We applaud the recent adoption of legislation setting the legal age for marriage to 18 years. This is a major development that comes as a result of years of evidence-based advocacy and we owe it to the girls of this country to enforce this law so that they can be seen for what they are: girls, not brides, not free labour, not commodities. Girls looking up to us to remove the many obstacles society has put on their pathways,” she said.
UNFPA Country Representative Dr Esther Muia added that the impact of child marriage and its negative health and social empowerment outcomes is not to be underestimated in Zimbabwe.
UNICEF was joined by Football star Marvelous Nakamba, musician Selmor Mtukudzi and international Rugby player and UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador Tendai (the Beast) Mtawarira with a call for Zimbabweans to be role models in their community and to stand-up and raise their voices in favor of a positive change in the perception of the role of women in society and to support adolescent girls to fulfill their full potential and make their own choices in life.