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Susan Nyamangodo Post Correspondent

Simukai Child Protection Programme has roped in traditional leaders in a strategic move to eradicate child marriages and advance children’s rights in Mutasa district.The project coordinator, Ms Bridget Zhou, said they were training traditional leaders in Mutasa, amid indications of increased child marriages in the district. Poverty, religious and cultural beliefs have been cited as some of the issues fueling the practice.

We are mainly focusing on the protection of children and realised the need to engage traditional leaders in Honde Valley, with a view to educate them on the importance and ways of ending child marriages.

“Mutasa district has some of the highest statistics of early child marriages and school dropouts. This is being driven by factors like religious and cultural beliefs,” said Ms Zhou.

Ms Zhou said traditional leaders, as custodians of culture, must be at the forefront of urging their communities to desist from ancient practices of child marriages.

The main objective of this initiative is to make a contribution to gender equality and the self-determination of women and girls through the elimination of child marriages and teen pregnancies. This can only be achieved through increased engagement of the traditional figures of authority and the young people to respond to and report cases of child abuse, rape and child marriages in their areas.

The traditional leader will launch his child marriages publication next week. Chief Mutasa was part of the 18+ project, a delegation from Zimbabwe that attended a regional traditional leaders meeting on ending child marriage in Lira, Uganda, last year. The main objective of the meeting was for chiefs to share experiences, challenges and learn best practices from each other, and to establish a support mechanism to eradicate child marriage.