A local youth empowerment lobby grouping, Platform for Youth Development (PYD), says early marriages in the area have reached alarming levels with parents exchanging 10 year old girl children for food because of the El Nino induced drought.
Chipinge is one of the areas which were hard hit by the drought which ravaged the entire Southern Africa region. According to reports, some villagers in some parts of Manicaland province are now surviving on wild fruits.
PYD director, Claris Madhuku, told Newzimbabwe.com in Harare at the weekend that a recent research conducted by his organisation recorded huge numbers of girls dropping out of school.
“Hunger in last 12 months has been increasing at an alarming rate with parents being left with no choice but to give away their girl children.
“In Mabee ward 28 of Chipinge, girls as young as 10 years are being married out. There are cases that are as old as the Stone Age of parents actually taking the initiative to offer their daughters to well off families.
“Many young girls are dropping out of school due to failure of raising fees and inability of parents providing food,” said Madhuku.
PYD board chairperson, Sally Nobuhle Mlambo, said following the study they were forced to embark on a massive anti-child marriage campaign in Chipinge where they are strengthening young women and girls in building their capacities to defend themselves against harmful cultural practices.
“Basing on the reception we are getting in the wards we have penetrated so far, the task before us is challenging but traversable and as a strategic organisation we have involved other stakeholders with more experience where we face complicated cases,” she said.
A victim of early marriages, Debra Dube, who got married at the age of 15, said girls who get married when they are below the age of 18 years are psychologically unable to freely decide for themselves.
She is now part of a 20 gender activists grouping working with PYD in the anti-child marriages project.