Epworth, Zimbabwe—— Growing up in Epworth, a densely populated suburb southeast of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, 17-year-old Lisa Nyambupu would see many of her friends married at a very young age.
This is the future she is looking forward to for herself-until she first stepped on the taekwondo mat.
“I always thought that there was nothing wrong with getting married early,” said Nimbup, who in 2019 decided to attend a taekwondo training class by Natsiraishe Maritsa, another girl of her age. “It is on this forum that I learned that this is actually a bad practice that cannot be encouraged.”
She never looked back.
“Taekwondo gave me hope,” said Nyambupu, who competed in the 45-50 kg class. “I study discipline, self-defense, and art encourages me to work hard in life.”
Nyambupu was born into a family of five, and she said that lack of financial support forced her to drop out of school at the age of 13 after her father’s death.
“He is a breadwinner, and my mother can’t afford my tuition,” she said.
A 2019 report The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report on Zimbabwe states that school dropouts and people from poor families are more likely to marry before the age of 18 (the country’s legal age for marriage) than those who continue to receive higher education.
* 43-year-old Nyasha Tomeni still recalls the emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her in-laws when she got married at the age of 17.
“When my parents found out that I was pregnant, they forced me to elope. My in-laws didn’t want me to marry their son. They couldn’t give me food, they called me a derogatory term,” Tomeni said.
‘Prove them wrong’
Another report released by UNICEF in 2019 Said Approximately one third (34%) of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married or cohabited for the first time before the age of 18.
Child rights activists have warned that due to the coronavirus pandemic, child marriages have increased, which has plunged more families into poverty and kept girls out of school for longer.
in a report Last year, the international charity Save the Children stated that due to the economic impact of COVID-19, it is estimated that more than 500,000 girls worldwide are at risk of forced child marriage.
This marked a year-on-year increase of 4%, reversing the progress in reducing early marriages over the past 25 years.
It is the widespread popularity of this practice that prompted Taekwondo ace Maritsa to launch the Vulnerable Minors Auditorium Project in 2018.Since then, the teenager has trained dozens of child marriage girls and survivors
“Most of my friends got married before the age of 18. When I watched, these girls were deprived of their futures,” she said. “Some people are married by their parents and guardians. I want to change this,” she added.
“Of course, one should get married in 18 years,” continued Marissa, who was the third born in a family of five girls. “But even if you reach the legal age, you don’t have to worry. For girls, it is important to realize their dreams, such as having a sustainable source of income.”
Inspired by her father Richard Maritsa (Richard Maritsa), he practiced a full-contact martial art kyokushin, the teenager entered the martial arts world at the age of 5. Later, she focused on taekwondo and continued to participate in national championships and won many honors.
“Taekwondo is male-dominated. Many people think that girls can’t bear the pain of taekwondo. We are proving them wrong,” she said.
“The law has let us down”
Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution prohibits boys and girls under the age of 18 from marrying, but the country’s marriage law does not comply with this provision, resulting in Zimbabwe’s lack of legislation specifically prohibiting child marriage.
Although the Constitutional Court issued a clause in the Marriage Law in 2016 that allows young people to marry before their 18th birthday, this practice is still widespread.
The amendment to the Marriage Bill proposed in 2017 aims to align the inconsistencies in the current marriage legislation with the Constitution.
Fadzai Ruzive, a legal practitioner of Women and Law in Southern Africa, said they are eagerly waiting for the bill to be signed into law because it clearly criminalizes child marriage.
“The Constitution stipulates that a person can marry at the age of 18. The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act stipulates that a person can consent to sex at the age of 16. The Marriage Law sets the age of marriage at 16. Therefore, when our law does not comply with When it comes to the constitution, there will be a lot of problems. The law has let us down,” she said.
According to local media reports, from January to February 2021, nearly 5,000 teenagers became pregnant, and more than 1,000 were married before their 18th birthday. Report, Quoting a new government report, which emphasizes that the number may be higher because most cases are not reported.
Kimberly Mupambawatyi, who has been a member of the Maritsa Taekwondo class since 2020, said that perpetrators of child marriage, including parents and legal guardians, should face legal consequences.
“Most of our girls married early in order to get rid of poverty. But I have realized that in your husband’s house, poverty can still follow you. It is important for us to realize our dream first,” the 13-year-old Said the child.
The Minister of Women’s Affairs of Zimbabwe, Sithembiso Nyoni, said that the number of children married before the age of 18 is worrying. The person who facilitates child marriage is responsible for the marriage of the child.
“The Ministry continues to contact our colleagues in the Ministry of Justice. They are responsible for the administration of the Marriage Act and are currently supporting the formulation of the Marriage Act. The legislative process is not as simple as a straightforward issue. The law is dynamic and constantly changing. The interests of different stakeholders need to be balanced in order to formulate sound legislation,” she said.
In August 2020, in order to prevent many girls from dropping out and address gender inequality in the classroom, the government made it illegal to expel pregnant students from schools.
Back in Epworth, Nyambupu returned to the Taekwondo training class after relaxing the COVID-19 restrictions in early September. She said she hopes to become a professional in this sport.
“I hope Taekwondo will change my life. I dream of transcending national boundaries to participate in regional and international competitions such as the Olympics.
“For now, marriage is not on my to-do list.”
This story was published with the support of media monitoring Africa and UNICEF, as lsu beauty award