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Published On: Tue, Aug 23rd, 2016

Apostolic women campaign against child marriages

HARARE – Women in apostolic churches, through the Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (Awet), are spearheading a campaign against child-marriages.

Awet — an inter-apostolic church organisation created to advance adolescents and women’s issues in apostolic churches — said it will roll out the anti-child marriages crusade through a number of activities, “the first one being the holding of the inaugural Women’s Conference … in Gweru from September 2 to 4”.

The Trust seeks to influence apostolic churches to give space to women and girls so that they can make decisions about their social and economic wellbeing,” Hope Dunira, an Awet official, said.

“We will also engage men in our multi-step process of which the conference we are holding is the first step to this process,” Dunira added.

“Awet is fully cognisant of the fact that apostolic churches have different beliefs, norms and values, and perceptions on key social issues such as child marriages, education, HIV and Aids and maternal health,” she said.

Dunira further said the conference, running under the theme ‘‘Apostolic Women Unite Against Child Marriage’’, will be a platform to discuss, engage and open dialogue among apostolic women on issues pertaining to child marriage in different sects.

“There will be discussions on the effects of child marriage on education, health, gender-based violence (GBV), women empowerment; to form a movement (army) of apostolic women who will champion transformation within the apostolic community and society and to lobby and advocate for positive change within the community at policy levels in apostolic churches regarding key contemporary social issues,” she said.

The women in apostolic churches’ efforts come against a backdrop of shocking child marriage statistics.

A Constitutional Court ruling on child marriages states that no child should enter into a formal or informal union before the age of 18. Approximately one in every three girls in Zimbabwe is married before the age of 18,” she said.

The Extended Analysis of Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014 results indicate that child marriage (before 18) has been on the rise from 31 percent (2010/11) to 34 percent in 2014. The Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator Monitoring Survey (2009), reports that 21 percent of children are married before the age of 18.

The Extended Analysis of Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014: Child Protection, Child Marriage and Attitudes towards Violence, reports that 29 percent of child mothers and 30 percent of teenage mothers were in the apostolic sect and are among the poorest in the country. It further states that households whose heads were apostolic, traditional and no religion had the highest proportion of child mothers (about 29 percent for each religion).

“Therefore, addressing issues of child mothers and teenage marriage (15-19 years) would require a mix of measures as it is clear that apostolic girls are at greater risk of being in early/child marriages. Hence as women in the apostolic churches, our voice will make a big difference in ending child marriages,” she said.

“The fact that apostolic churches are fragmented means that adolescents and women across the divide are more concerned about the inter-church differences than common issues affecting them as apostolic women.

“The proposed conference seeks to promote unity among apostolic adolescents and women and focus on common issues which impede their social and economic development. It is therefore a concoction of all these factors discussed above that triggered the need for a national conference for apostolic women and girls,” Dunira said.

“The conference will explore and address child marriage in the context of the following: Apostolic Doctrine Belief/Practices; Poverty; Limited educational opportunities of apostolic girls; Gender Inequalities in the Apostolic Community; Human Rights and Constitutional Court ruling on child marriage; Adolescents Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and Social and Health Inequalities Challenges.-Daily News