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Poverty pushing girls into marriage

GIRLS are still being viewed as a source of income in rural Matabeleland North povince, resulting in many being married off before the age of consent.
In Ndebele culture, women are addressed as children regardless of age.  During hunger and drought periods parents would surrender their girl children to a wealthy man in exchange for food.
Bulawayo-based non-governmental organisation, Wozalethemba said it discovered that the practice was still prevalent after hosting Christmas parties for orphans and widows in Gumtree in Umguza district and other parts of the province.
“As an organisation, we aim at providing sexual information to widows and orphans who reside in rural and remote areas. After having a few sessions of counselling with villagers in Gumtree on Sunday, we noticed that the majority of mothers were forcing their children to get married to old people who are rich so that they can get money,” Wozalethemba secretary Sipho Ndlovu said.

“Some children in Gumtree are forced to be sex workers so that they can supply their parents with money. I noticed that churches and hunger were contributing to increasing child marriages in that area.”

Ndlovu said many women in Matabeleland North were widows and were struggling to pay school fees leading to many school dropouts.
“The concerns of the villagers were that widows were struggling to pay school fees for their children, so they end up dropping out of school. Most girls end up going to the mines where they work as sex workers,” he said.
“Many villagers said gender-based violence was leading to married couples divorcing and leaving their kids with grandmothers who struggled to provide for the needs of the children.”
Wozalethamba promotes access to sexual reproductive health for orphans and widows.
A report presented in Parliament by Women’s Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni in March shows that an estimated 2 000 child marriages were recorded in the first two months of the year.
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