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COVID-19 lockdown, poverty, increase child marriages in Lupane

The deepening poverty, coupled with perennial droughts and high levels of unemployment in Zimbabwe is driving a number of families to marry off their under-age daughters. This was revealed by women in Lupane who expressed deep concern over the rate at which young girls have been married off during the lockdown period.

Women who spoke to Infocus News said the issue of child marriages was a worrying trend as families were giving away their children as part of efforts to alleviate poverty.

Florence Magagula, a community member from Lupane, said the prolonged closure of schools during the lockdown period has contributed immensely to the high rates of child marriages.

“Most youngsters are not at school especially during this time of lockdown. Most girls are pregnant and as such, their parents have married them off.”

“The other issue has to do with finances. Most parents are letting go of their daughters for financial gains. If you see the age difference between the young women and the men they get married to, it’s heartbreaking. Girls are married off to older men as long as they can pay big amounts of lobola or dowry.” She said.

Magagula added: “This is affecting these young women in that they will not be able to finish their studies. Once a child is married off, they won’t be able to go back to school. Something really needs to be done because this is affecting the future of the girl child.”

Another woman shared the same sentiments by stating that a lack of employment and financial gains for parents has caused the increase of child marriages.

“Most people here in Lupane are unemployed. They have plenty of time on their hands and nothing much to do. This has been one of the causes of child marriages in this area. The other cause is that parents want to gain riches by marrying off their children to older men because they have money. This is a sad issue in our area which is affecting underage children, said Siduduzile Nkala.

Kusile Rural District Council Social Services Officer Dorica Zulu confirmed this phenomenon saying that this is attributed to a lack of employment for young women in rural areas.

“Young women in Lupane are not working, they are idle right now. Most of them do not have anything to do. This has contributed to a serious rise in child marriages in the district which has become a cause for concern.”

Poverty has been worsened in communities and some parents have opted to sacrifice their daughters for a few beasts to save them from the hunger and other economic challenges that have been brought by the pandemic. The coronavirus has frozen sources of income for many rural and many families have been left with nothing to eat.

 

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