Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust combat against GBV and Child Marriages

Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (AWET) marked the 16 Days of Activism againstGender Based Violence from 25 November to 10 December 2021, running under the theme name “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now,” engaging girls and young mothers across the country from the apostolic community, raising awareness about the types of violence that affect them and solutions in dealing with these vices.

The organization is serving as a beacon of hope for many young girls and mothers who have been subjected to forced marriages in marginalized areas of the country. Child marriages are most prevalent in Mashonaland Central, where 52.1% of girls get married before 18, while Bulawayo has the lowest prevalence rate, 10.9%.

For instance, but in recent times Manicaland Province is a prime territory for forced marriages in both farming and mining areas, leading to several sexual gender-based violence issues.

Tendayi Gudo, the AWET National Director highlighted that anyone could become a survivor of SGBV: girls, boys, women, men, of every age and background, in response to this AWET with support from UNICEF and Spotlight Initiative this 16 Days of Activism are raising awareness against GBV and child marriages within apostolic communities across 52 districts in the country working together with Ministry of Women Affairs Gender and Community

“It is difficult to persuade underaged girls who may have been forced into early marriages to leave their new homes and relatives. However, this year we have been strengthening issues of accountability with our referral pathways in communities. We are saying Child Marriage is Rape therefore those who witness such acts or are faced with it should report to AWET structures within communities where the issues are escalated through the referral pathways
to the responsible service providers.

We also encouraged the use of our toll free number 08080443 to report any cases of abuse. Our goal is to target knowledge, attitudes and practices to ensure there is behaviour change within the apostolic community and we are happy that most of them are speaking out. ,” said Tendayi

A report by The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says globally, more than one in four girls are married as children – before the age of 18. In the East and Southern Africa region, the share of girls married before 18 is 36%, while 10% of girls in the region are married by age 15.

Statistics by Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) from the Zimstat’s Multiple Indicator Survey demonstrate that child marriage is still a challenge in Zimbabwe and disproportionately affecting more girls than boys. Further indications are that child marriage prevalence is high (40%) in rural areas as compared to urban areas (21,3%),” ZGC said.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), 33.7% of girls aged under 18 are married. This is one in three girls under 18.  In comparison, 2% of boys get married before reaching the age of 18 years. Zimbabwe is among the 20 African countries where child marriages are most prevalent.

Since 2016, AWET has fought as a nationwide advocacy movement of women and men to restore girl’s rights and dignity in order to prevent them from being coerced into early marriages.

Gudo stated that the training under ‘Spotlight Initiative and AWET Child Marriage campaign saw more than 7810 Behaviour Change Facilitators (BCFs) in 52 districts around the country who are the first respondents on GBV in their communities,” she explained.