Villagers in Chimanimani have raised concern over the increase in cases of early marriages, which has seen a significant decline in the number of girls reaching Ordinary Level.
The situation has been worsened by the communities’ proximity to the border with Mozambique where some young girls relocate once they get married.
Manicaland shares a long stretch of border with Mozambique in four districts where there is free movement of people through unofficial entry points.
According to Mutsvangwa villagers, both the primary and secondary schools have become a hunting ground for men who lure young girls with the promise of buying goodies for them.
Speaking during a recent media tour of communities working with the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), Mutsvangwa ward 23 councillor Mr Joel Dhumakwezu, said there was need for more awareness campaigns to end child marriages.
“We have seen men, both young and old, who come here to lure young girls into sεxual relations. Some of the girls fall prεgnant and they get married to these men. We have managed to follow up on a few that have been married in the past but there has been no action taken on the perpetrators. Those that end up crossing into Mozambique are a different matter because we have no mechanism of following them,” he said.
He said some of the young girls who leave school to get married are sometimes abandoned by their husbands who go to seek employment in South Africa and do not send money to support the girl and the child.
Mrs Irene Maphosa, a villager, said young girls were dying during childbirth and cases of gender based violence were also being recorded between parents when such cases happened.
“We are hopeful if education can reach all communities, we will see a good change in this culture of marrying young girls. As it is, our children are getting pr.εgnant while still very young and the men usually do not take them to a clinic when they give birth for fear of being arrested. It is very painful for a parent to bury a child who dies in childbirth,” she said.
Villagers also raised concern that since the nearest police camp was 30 km away, some cases were not being reported on time.
Mr Elijah Makumira said there was need for authorities to act swiftly to bring men who marry underage girls to book.
“As a community, we sometimes report cases of early marriage but surprisingly, we see the perpetrators still walking free. We need to know that if we report cases, they will be taken seriously and that person is punished to deter others who might want to marry young girls in the future,” he said.