Ending Child Marriage in Zimbabwe

20 DECEMBER 2016 | ONLINE

Building Youth Movements in Zimbabwe to Create Change

5 years ago I met Tecla, a youth leader at the time, who was involved in a network of young people that I was a part of. She entrusted a small group of us with her story; a tale of courage of how she was sold off in marriage, became pregnant and contracted HIV before she turned 15, and how she overcame those challenges to inspire young people throughout the country. In the following months after she shared her story, we worked with a South Africa based organization called STEPS, to document her message of hope to share with young people throughout Southern Africa. Today her story is being used by youth groups in different countries to tackle stigma against people living with HIV, to encourage positive living and to advocate for laws that criminalize child marriage. She has continued her personal fight against HIV and lives with a strong optimism we all have learnt from.

It seems like a while back now, but it’s stories like hers that come alive in me everyday, to inspire my work to support youth leadership, end child marriage and hold decision makers accountable. One can’t deny that we live in an unjust and unequal world; and that those with the power to change it are misusing the power entrusted to them. It is such misappropriation of power that has resulted in over 1 million preventable deaths in adolescence, and in the disturbing figure of 39,000 girls that are married off every single day worldwide. Today the complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death of adolescent girls aged 15-19, the majority of whom are married or in union. With young people dubbed as our innovators today and the hope of our future, every young life lost is a closed window of opportunity.