Young girls get support from Zimbabwe’s legal world

Canada’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Kumar Gupta, and Ruvimbo Topodze celebrate the progress of CEFM in Zimbabwe.

Tendai Biti engages on the legal discussion about CEFM.

Ruvimbo Topodzi shares some of her child marriage story at the “Girls’ Voices” Exhibit.

“Girls’ Voices” is on display and the crowd discusses CEFM issues.

Child, early and forced marriages (CEFM) are a global problem and particularly prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe is one of four southern African countries with the highest rates of CEFM.

Girls who marry before age 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence, including marital rape, compared to peers who marry later. Preventing CEFM and addressing its impacts on girls and women requires a multi-sectoral approach that promotes human rights, gender equality and long-term development investments in girls’ education and health, protection from violence, gender-sensitive child protection services, and women’s economic empowerment. 

The Embassy of Canada to Zimbabwe has been actively working to decrease the rate of CEFM, and continues to do so by partnering with civil society, NGOs, local organizations and the Government of Zimbabwe in an effort to decrease the rate of CEFM. 

The lawyer who argued for children

Following Zimbabwe’s constitutional court’s decision to outlaw marriage for persons under 18 years old,

the Embassy of Canada and the Embassy of the Netherlands co-sponsored a Policy Symposium and Twitter dialogue: “Child Marriage: Where to from here?”.

Tendai Biti, the lawyer who successfully argued the case before the constitutional court, launched the discussion that centered on the court proceedings and the disconnect between the age of consent, set at 16 years old, and the age of marriage, set at 18 years old.

The discussion also touched on topics that centered on cultural, religious, and legal contexts that contribute to CEFM in Zimbabwe.

Girls raise their voices in Zimbabwe

Providing a platform for girls to tell their story is an important part of the solution to CEFM.  The Embassy collaborated with PLAN International to launch the Girls’ Not Brides photo exhibit, “Girls’ Voices: Speaking Out Against Child Marriage,” at a newly established local gallery in Zimbabwe.

The launch of the exhibit featured CEFM victims, advocates, and communities all working to end the practice. Ruvimbo Topodzi, one of the two girls who was the subject of the constitutional court’s ruling, participated in the launch and shared some of her child marriage story at the exhibit.

Members of Parliament support children

The Embassy’s events contributed to the emergence of a petition from Zimbabwe’s Members of Parliament to ban CEFM from increasing. This petition shows significant progress on the promotion of CEFM human rights.

Canada will continue to work with PLAN International to host CEFM events in more remote communities and other avenues around Zimbabwe to advance the policy dialogue on CEFM and decrease the rates of CEFM around the world.