Young girls in Zimbabwe seek a platform for self-expression. Photo: OSISA.
The Creative Centre for Communication and Development (CCCD), based in Bulawayo, intends to “support and meet the needs of child brides and expose cases of child marriage through a structured approach to community mobilization.”
The project title, referring to computer terms, is “Giving a BYTE to child brides by word of MOUSE!” It is being supported by WACC together with financial assistance from the Waldensian Church’s Otto per mille.
CCCD quotes reports that in Zimbabwe, 21% of children (mostly girls) are married before the age of 18. Child marriage “denies girls the opportunity to fully develop their potential as healthy, productive and empowered citizens,” said the Center.
“Child marriage robs girls of their girlhood, entrenching them and their future families in poverty, limiting their life choices and generating high development costs for communities. Child marriage brings an abrupt and unnatural end to a girl’s childhood and adolescence through imposing adult roles and responsibilities before she is physical, psychological and emotionally prepared,” it added.
Child brides often become socially isolated from friends and family, do not continue their education and are often vulnerable to sexually-transmitted diseases since they find it difficult to practice safe sex with their usually older and more-experienced husbands, CCCD said.
WACC’s support and CCCD’s project goals parallel the findings of a report from the Washington, D.C.-based GreeneWorks foundation, co-published with the Ford Foundation, entitled “Ending Child Marriage in a Generation.” Sub-titled “What Research is Needed?”, the report identifies five strategies, among them, “educate and mobilize parents and community members to change social norms.”
Saying that many child brides “have no voice and platforms to engage and express themselves,” the project intends to train girls in the Matabeleland region to use citizen journalism skills and digital media to express their opinions and advocate for themselves.
The project also intends to “provide an enabling environment” for parents, community and religious leaders aimed at changing social norms and forging more supportive, less punitive environment for girls and families ready to change the custom of child marriages.
One goal of the initiative will be that parents and community members come to view young girls differently and perceive the practice of child marriage as unacceptable.
The initiative will also develop advocacy campaigns targeting media and policy makers in order to change policy and legal frameworks.