By Buhle Tshavango
PARLIAMENTARIANS who signed the declaration on protection of the girl child have been urged to walk the talk and fulfill their commitments as Zimbabwe joined other African countries in commemorating the Day of the African Child.
In a statement, the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, called for the acceleration of interventions to end child marriages which have continued to negatively affect the lives of children in Africa.
“It is a sad reality that 39% of girls in Africa are married before their 18th birthday while 13% are married by the time they reach 15 years of age.
“…it is imperative that concrete steps are taken to protect the girl child from the many infringements of her rights to non-discrimination, equal access to and protection before the law, freedom of association: personal liberty, development, health, education, equality and security.
“Today Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole commemorate this day under the theme “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunity”.
Zimbabwe celebrates Day of the African Child against a backdrop of one in every three girls in rural areas being married before the age of 18 with sharp differences between urban (18%) and (43%) in the rural areas.
“Child marriages significantly worsen the plight of girls as they result in loss of productivity in all aspects of their lives. Pregnancy forces young girls to drop out of school, and their new-borns are also prone to insufficient care because of inexperience in motherhood and child care as well as lack of resources. They are subsequently exposed to higher risks of death, injuries in childbirth, Sexually Transmitted Infections, cervical cancer and domestic violence”, said WCoZ.
The women’s organisations said government should expedite the alignment of all laws that affect children to the new Constitution based on the best interests of the child and ensure implementation of the constitutional provisions that protect children and Section 56 (3) that calls for non-discrimination.
“We call on male Members of Parliament of Zimbabwe who signed the DECLARATION to Protect the Girl Child, on the 16th March and 5th April 2016, to take action and fulfill their commitments to protect the girl child from all forms of abuse and not to improperly associate with girls under 18 years of age”.
The day of the African Child is commemorated every year on the 16th of June in memory of the 16th June 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa, during which students who marched in peacefully in protest against the poor quality of education and were brutally massacred by the then apartheid regime in place in South Africa