RELEASE: Churches in united voice against child marriages

WE, members of the clergy, representing inter-denominational leaders from churches in Zimbabwe, having converged at Holiday Inn Hotel, Harare, Zimbabwe, on 28 November 2016, for the Inter-denominational Dialogue on Child Marriages in Zimbabwe, facilitated by Plan International Zimbabwe.

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  • Recognise that child abuse under the guise of “Child Marriage” is a harmful practice that is significantly prevalent in Zimbabwe and remarkably undermines the best interests of the children especially girls;
  • Further recognise that Child Marriage has adverse effects for the child and for the society as a whole. When girls marry, many stop going to school. Child Marriage therefore robs them of their education, health and long term prospects;
  • Note with concern that poverty is the major contributor that has destroyed the family structure creating vulnerabilities resulting various forms of child abuse
  • Note with concern that, 31% of girls are married before the age of 18 years in Zimbabwe;
  • Aware that dysfunctional families and the breakdown of the social fabric, some religious beliefs and cultural practices among other social, economic factors contribute to the high prevalence of child marriage.

Mindful of the fact that, as the Religious Leaders, we are also the custodians and moral compass of society to preserve positive norms and values and can act as agents of change. We therefore stand in solidarity and: •

  • Commit as the Inter-denominational Religious Leaders, to take lead in interventions that are aimed at ending child marriages through implementing the following important steps;
    • Partnering with Government, Civil Society, Private Sector, Media, Communities and the children to end Child Marriages in Zimbabwe
    • Utilising the pulpit and other spaces within the church as platforms to raise awareness on child marriage, child rights, sex positive theology and doing specific prayers aimed at dislodging spiritual powers that influence such behaviour
    • Creating spaces to listen to and respect children’s views on issues that affect them
    • Providing emotional, practical and non-stigmatised support to girls who are or have been married
    • Strengthening the family unit by encouraging parents to have quality time with their children, listening, protecting, loving and understanding that children have developmental stages that they go through
    • Abiding by the constitution and acting within the confines of the law while promoting social justice within communities especially recognition of the full humanity of women and girls

In view of the above and in cognisance of Chapter 15 of the Constitution, we therefore;

  • Urge the State and its Development Partners at all levels to take measures to ensure due recognition of the role of religious institutions in ending child marriage
  • Call upon the government of Zimbabwe to commit itself to implementing poverty eradication in line with ZIMASSET Agenda 2063 and SDGs
  • Call for the capacitation of the Religious Leaders through enhanced trainings, curriculum transformation in theological institutions
  • Call on in depth joint research, public dialogue involving religious leaders on harmful and traditional practices and public education on moral values that restores the social fabric.

Signed on 28 November by ……………………………………….. Rev Tapfumanei Zenda President Christian Voices International Zimbabwe ………………………. Plan Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

Pic: kevinzim via Foter.com / CC BY