Community members from Makoni have singled out early child marriages in Makoni as the major driver of Gender Based Violence (GBV).This came out during a Women Rights and GBV reporting training conducted by Heal Zimbabwe on 17 September 2020. The training was attended by 32 women drawn from ward 32 Headlands, in Makoni District, Ward 32 Councillor, Farai Mutokosi, four members from the local Zimbabwe Republic Police (Victim Friendly Unit) and four Traditional leaders.
During the training, the VFU department made a presentation on the role of the VFU in ending GBV, services that they offer to GBV victims and how best the community can work together in reducing GBV cases. The presentation confirmed that most GBV cases are a result of early marriages emanating from religious and cultural practices. Community members also confirmed that in the area, members of some religious sects give away their children to older business people in the area in exchange of money and other commodities such as rice, mealie meal, sugar and cooking oil. The training noted that this practice is taking place against a Zimbabwe Constitutional Court ruling in 2016 that outlawed child marriages under the Customary Marriages Act which previously had no minimum age requirement for marriage. Other issues that came out during the training are that most women in the area are not aware of constitutionally provided rights such as marriage rights (Section 78) and rights of women (Section 80) and the high price for basic commodities such as sugar and cooking oil.
As a way forward, participants assumed the role of Anti-GBV Ambassadors with the mandate to take a lead in ending violence in different communities and also reach out to survivors of GBV during the lockdown period. The Anti-GBV Ambassadors will also document, monitor, and report cases of GBV to the relevant authorities. Their responsibility will also include raising awareness on GBV, compiling monthly reports on the state of human rights in their area and make referrals to institutions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).The training by Heal Zimbabwe is one among many initiatives meant to build socially cohesive communities where respect for human rights is prioritized.