YOUTHFUL Bulawayo based preacher Shelton Sibanda aka Sheltons has embarked on an online campaign against teenage pregnancies, illegal abortions and child marriages as he navigates around the coronavirus (Covid-19) national lockdown.
Sheltons, 26 said he had to confine his campaign to the digital platforms after President Emmerson Mnangagwa introduced a national lockdown to curtail the spread of Covid -19.
“I launched this campaign in February where I would visit high density suburbs to educate teenagers about unwanted pregnancies and abortions among other things.
“Unfortunately then came the lockdown and I was forced to resort to conducting an online campaign which I think has so far produced positive results,” Sheltons said.
“I felt that as much as we concentrate on preaching the word of God, we should also use our influence in society to raise awareness to these teenagers.”
He said there were misconceptions of family planning among adolescents resulting in teenage pregnancies. “Most of the adolescent girls do not have access to information on contraceptives and through this campaign we seek to fill this gap while also speaking out against teenage pregnancies, risky abortions and child marriages.”
With most of the attention on the deadly coronavirus which has ravaged thousands across the globe, Sheltons who is the founder of Spirit Revival and Counter Church said teenagers were still vulnerable during this period.
Teenage pregnancies and risky abortions are seen as major contributors of maternal and child mortality. Abortions are illegal in terms of the 1977 Termination of Pregnancy Act except in limited cases where one would have been raped.
Some sections have however called for the amendment of the Act amid reports that teenage girls were dying from backstreet abortions.
In Zimbabwe, child marriages and forced marriages are illegal but reports show that an estimated 34 percent of girls are married by the time they are 18 years old.
The country has ratified several conventions to ending child marriages such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and the 2008 African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
In 2016, the Constitutional Court outlawed child marriages.
“It is a well-known fact that abortions are illegal; they result in fatalities from haemorrhage or infection and what we want as a church is for the provision of sexual reproductive health services at specific centres targeting teenagers as a way of fighting teenage pregnancies and risky abortions,” Sheltons said, adding that his church is also paying tuition fees for the underprivileged girl child in the high density suburb.
Zimbabwe has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriages by 2030 in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
According to United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), globally, one in every five girls is married, or in a union, before reaching the age of 18 years.