A Reflection on Interventions against GBV and Child Marriages
August 1, 2019
With funding from VGIF a total of 4 community dialogues were held in four different locations in BINDURA district namely Bemberero, Glamorgan, Woodlands and Arcadia within the year of 2018. All of them being farming communities religiously dominated by the vapostori sect and where there is a high prevalence of Child marriage and GBV. At these dialogues, a platform was provided for the communities to define child marriage and GBV according to their viewpoints. It was apparent that all the communities understood what both subjects entailed.
Drivers of GBV and child marriages were also discussed with communities seeking to understand what caused parents to marry off their children and also how they felt about the marriage act. Mostly, economic challenges and uninformed religious practices came about as major drivers of child marriage. Also lack of SRH information leads to children indulging in unprotected sexual activities resulting in unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and then the elders in the community would recommend that the minors get married.
These discussions with the communities helped them to realize how bad the practices were. In the end they also helped in making sure that the community members became ambassadors and whistle blowers among themselves in reporting and acting against child marriages and GBV. These community dialogues also improved referral networks for girls in child marriages as these communities were now better equipped and informed to help them when it became necessary. These community dialogues left a lasting mark on these communities evidenced by a clearly new found zeal to protect girls and women from negative cultural practices.
ROOTS also facilitated counselling sessions for couples including those involved in child marriage situations, which were running at times concurrently with the community dialogues. This was done with a total of 30 couples, who were identified by the ROOTS team of facilitators as experiencing extreme GBV. In these sessions the following were covered: A brief history of their relationship, trying to focus on the happy times and why they got together. Following this they were asked to share their specific challenges and explain in their own way, why or what circumstances had gotten them to where they were. We then explored alternative conflict resolution techniques that would leave both satisfied in the long term. Communication Strategies were proposed for the couples as well as stressing the importance of a positive atmosphere in their marriages. The couples were engaged openly and were willing to make changes in their lifestyle. According to one of the counsellors in her report she notes “If ROOTS would carry on and intensify this project I am hopeful that a significant change would be realised.” The counsellors also got to meet individuals who were in the referral networks of those affected.
For many teenagers, the onset of adolescence brings not only changes to their bodies but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the areas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing. Millions of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage, putting them at risk of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and dangerous childbirth. Adolescent boys are at risk, as well. These young people – both boys and girls – are disproportionately affected by HIV yet they face barriers to reproductive health information and care. The young people, particularly the girls at Maizelands secondary school in Bindura district face these challenges and ROOTS reached out to them and other young people in the local mining and farming community. ROOTS had noted with concern that child marriages are still occurring in the target area and one of the main drivers being barriers to the access to SRHR information. ROOTS then had a one day Girls wellness fair for female adolescents at maizelands secondary school and from surrounding communities and male adolescents also attended. Our partners in the health sector came and at their various stands gave AYP sexual and reproductive health information.
Based on availability of funding, ROOTS wishes to address the need for more community dialogues as they provide an outlet for usually victims to speak out openly against bad practices without fear of certain backlash that comes if they were to confront the same issues privately. The dialogues also provided an opportunity for the communities to make agreements on certain principles and future engagements would help them in maintaining the accord that they have established. The couples counselling was instrumental in allowing the low income earners to access a service that is usually for just the affluent and the sessions were also important in curbing GBV in marriages.The girl’s wellness fair showed that such a one stop resource centre would help in provision of the much needed basis SRHR information, enlightening girls about the dangers of child marriage and go a long way in motivating them to stay in school.