Tendai Rupapa in BINDURA
THE nation remains on an onslaught against child marriages which expose young mothers and their offspring to innumerable health and social challenges.
Research shows that most child marriages had many effects on girls’ health like increased risk for obstetric fistulas, sexually-transmitted diseases, cervical cancer and death during childbirth.
The young mother’s offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death as neonates or infants. Early marriages also force girls out of education and into a life of poor prospects, with an increased risk of abuse.
Statistics show that in Zimbabwe, 32 percent of girls are married off before the age of 18, while four percent are married before they turn 15. Approximately one in three girls in Zimbabwe are married before they turn 18. This is despite the fact that child marriages are associated with many consequences.
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa is on record urging Zimbabweans to desist from the culture of child marriages and empower the girl child with education.
Rampant cases of child marriages across the country and teenage girls and boys rushing into sexual relationships, prompted Amai Mnangagwa to lead nationwide campaign warning against the practices through her all-encompassing Gota/Nhanga/Ixiba programme.
Through the programme, she spearheads efforts to fight teenage pregnancies, immorality, dis-respectfulness, among other vices which are now generally associated with today’s youths.
On Wednesday, the First Lady visited a Bindura teenage couple comprising of a 16-year-old girl Ruvarashe Chaire and her 18-year-old husband Leonard Mayenza who were blessed with triplets.
The teenagers called out to the First Lady for help admitting that they erred.
Members of Chipadze community were awestruck to see the First Lady visiting the teenage couple which is living in abject poverty in a one-roomed apartment being rented by the girl’s aunt Mrs Anna Chisoni who already has her own three children to take care of.
So dire is the situation that the aunt’s husband is being accommodated for the night by a co-tenant who is a bachelor.
The husband who survives on menial jobs, lives on a farm in Glendale and comes to visit his family. The First Lady spoke candidly against juvenile delinquency and counselled the teenage couple. Amai Mnangagwa, however, could not cradle the triplets for their safety owing to rising cases of Covid-19.
The teenage mom’s aunt, who is helping her niece look after her bundles of joy, was reduced to tears on seeing the First Lady arrive. “Amai vangu i thank you for inclining an ear to our appeal. Thank you for your love and kindness,” she said with tears running down her cheeks and the First Lady responded saying; “I have come so that we assist each other in looking after these children. Hongu vana vabvuma kuti vakakanganisa zvakadaro hatingasiye vacheche ava vasina mhosva vachitambura. These children are a gift from God,” she said.
Turning to the teenage mother, the First Lady said, “My daughter, look your mother has been reduced to tears and you are also crying. As parents we frown upon such things of rushing into sexual relationships before time is ripe. We want you to go to school so that your future will be bright. You are the leaders of tomorrow. When things happen this way, it pulls our country backwards. Ndinokudai vanangu uye ndafara kuti mabvuma kukanganisa kwenyu naizvozvo ndinoda kuti mudzidzisewo shamwari dzenyu not to do the same and treasure education. Chishuviro changu kuti dai zvaibvira mese mazoenderera mberi nechikoro chamakasira panzira,” she said.
Swept by a tide of emotion and crying, the teen mom expressed deep gratitude for having been paid a visit by the First Lady in her hour of need.
“I sent a word for you to help me raise these children Amai despite the fact that we misbehaved. You are my mother and a mother of the nation, I am thankful that you came here. I am truly thankful with the love that you have shown us. I am going to tell all my peers that what I am going through is a result of mischief. As 16-year-olds we are not supposed to be running homes and I appeal to my friends not to do as I did and I am thankful for the love shown to me,” she said.
Mrs Chisoni told the First Lady that her niece’s woes started during last year’s lockdown.
“Because of last year’s lockdown, it was difficult to raise funds for her to proceed with her education. This saw her visiting farm in Glendale where she met her husband which resulted in her eloping. We tried to take her back from there since she was too young, but she was already pregnant and we left her. The husband has not paid much towards bride price, he paid a little token to the girl’s mother,” she said.
The First Lady said it was important for children to remain morally-upright and concentrate on their studies.
The teenage father showed contrition and praised the First Lady for coming to their rescue.
“I am so happy that the First Lady has come to assist us. What we did was wrong and we are learning the hard way. We would meet during our menial work sessions around the farms with my wife. We fell in love when she was 15 and my friends drove me to sleep with her because of peer pressure. I am so sorry for what we did and thankful to the First Lady for coming to assist us,” he said.
“I urge all youngsters to wait until the time is ripe so that they do not fall into problems,” he said.
The First Lady gave the couple baby formula, petroleum jelly, an assortment of baby clothes of different sizes which will last them for years and baby blankets.
She also provided baby dishes, buckets, napkins and pins, washing powder, laundry soap. The case of the teenage couple is one of the many cases that drive the First Lady to teach youngsters to remain respectful, morally-upright and avoid sexual relationships before the time is right.