Rallying together to end child marriage

Information marketplace pavilion.
Girls Legacy’s Zvipo character gives advice to girls.

Every day, the voices of thousands of girls in the developing world are silenced as they are forced into marriage. The practice of Child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) in Zimbabwe is deep-rooted and widespread, with a staggering 1 in 3 girls married before the age of 18. A key challenge to ending this practice is that laws that set the minimum age for marriage in Zimbabwe are inconsistent and not properly enforced.

CEFM threatens the lives, the rights, and the futures of millions of young women every year. Canada has made it a priority to speak up for these girls and champion the end of CEFM practices.

As part of the fight against CEFM, the Embassy of Canada in Zimbabwe partnered with the Dutch and Zambian Embassies, as well as Girls Not Brides, to host a CEFM Information Marketplace. This event brought together non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Gender, and UNICEF to share knowledge, build partnerships, and strengthen global action against CEFM.

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Building strength through collaboration

There are many NGO’s advocating for an end to CEFM in Zimbabwe, and work is being done to increase information sharing and look for synergies in their approaches. Organizations such as Plan Zimbabwe, Real Open Opportunities for Transformation Support (ROOTS), UDACIZA, CARE, the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), and Girls’ Legacy attended the Information Marketplace to share their tools and advice on how to end CEFM. The Information Marketplace was a platform for these organizations to set up information booths, host talks on their recent initiatives and work together to accelerate the fight against CEFM.

Collaborative effort is vital for defending the rights of girls who are vulnerable to these harmful marriage practices. Sharing knowledge and spreading awareness will help break the silence on CEFM and give the voice back to the voiceless.

Girls, let’s talk

Canada has supported many initiatives in the fight against CEFM in Zimbabwe.  One particularly innovative initiative is the Girls Legacy’s Zvipo project.  Zvipo, which means “gift,” is an iconic cartoon character who is a sister to all the girls in Zimbabwe. Girls who wish to talk about the issues they face can text, email or tweet to Zvipo, and she will offer support, advice, and a listening ear. This project was supported through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) in 2014-2015.