Bad cultural practices story sparks debate

Some girls are married off at a tender age

Some girls are married off at a tender age

Joyce Jenje-Makwenda Inside Out
The article on bad practices in the name of culture generated debate. Some readers could not believe some of the so-called cultural beliefs that I discussed. They asked whether some of these bad practices which are perpetrated in the name of culture were really happening here in Zimbabwe.

The culture, which allows a father-in-law to taste her daughter-in-law left many wondering whether this was really happening in our country.

They asked how this could be stopped, but like all bad practices in the name of culture, happen mostly at family level and can be difficult to detect.

One said the young men from that place should stop this by not allowing their fathers to sample their wives and make it a real issue.

A woman who hails from that area said she moved away from the family and went to live outside the country because she could not imagine her girls going through that.

This is also how some women who come from areas where genital mutilation is practised have decided to do; relocate to countries were they are safe and will protect their children from the practice.

I was shocked when a person I have known for a long time told me that although she was not physically given to a man (avenging spirit), a handover ceremony was done when she was very young.

She says that a deal was struck with the family of the avenging spirit.

They had to pay using cows and a woman but not giving the woman physically.

She has never been married, not that marriage is the ultimate goal for every woman, but those who want to be married should get the chance to do so.

“I have tried to get a husband all my life but it has been very difficult, it seems this man is my spiritual husband. It breaks my heart.”

She is now in her mid 60’s and she has given up. She is a very bitter woman.

The High Court ruling on child marriages is still a topical issue.

A woman who is not sure about the law said: “Will people really be arrested, our society being a patriarchal society?

“The day I see someone being arrested for marrying a person under the age of 18 is when I will celebrate the law.

“For now, I don’t really know what is going on.

Sheilah Matindike, Social Worker and Human Rights Commissioner had this to say about the implementation of the law.

“The High Court ruling on child marriages is very progressive and shows that Zimbabweans are serious about protecting the rights of the children.

“What remains now is to implement the new law and make it work.

The first thing to do is create awareness of the law in communities through outreach.

Use of the media, especially the radio that reaches even the remotest of places in the country, holding workshops with community leaders and church leaders, targeting information to those areas that the practice is prevalent.

Working with some willing child mothers to share their stories in terms of how they have been affected emotionally, psychologically and physically and involve them in such campaigns. Produce pamphlets in local languages.

Also encourage young mothers to go back to school so they become empowered as education will enlighten them and equip them with skills to provide for themselves and their families.

Work with organisations that provide counselling for the children who have been forced into marriages,” she advised.

A man in Mutare wrote to say he was afraid that some people might try to circumvent this law by doing all sorts of things to disadvantage girls.

They will do all they can so that they do not go to jail.

For instance when they impregnate a girl, they might try to conceal it by either intimidating her or by asking her to terminate the pregnancy.

The girls are likely to go for a street abortion.

“I feel it’s a good judgment but feel abortion-related deaths are going to be on the increase.

“A 16-year-old gets pregnant and a 22-year-old male is responsible, do you think the male will marry her or run away, taking into account that if he marries an under 18 he faces prosecution?

“On the other hand the pregnant girl will be chased away from home and with nowhere to run, what’s next? It will be abortion and death.

“Parents are also aiding their kids and that has nothing to do with culture but greed.”

When I read this email, I thought of the stories that I have heard about backstreet abortions.

Girls should not go through that experience. I remember a story of how someone ended up vomiting blood after a crotchet had been inserted in her uterus to get rid of the pregnancy.

She died a painful death.

In some instances a stick is inserted. Some women have had their uterus damaged because of these street abortions.

If the girl dies while performing this abortion the 22-year-old will continue to live his life.

These two, the girl who has been unfortunate and has died and this 22-year-old young man who helped with the cover up so as not to go to jail are both coming from families which are part of communities.

Communities have failed our children. Maybe we need to go back to what our fore-parents did in pasichigare/endulo.

Initiation was very important at each and every phase of a person’s journey in order to prepare them.

Our parenting skills need to be improved and assisted by structures that we put from the family, community and national level so that we do not react to crisis but make it easy for our children to understand the world.

While it might be difficult to bring back the space in which our fore parents operated, let’s use the structures that we have to initiate our children at each and every stage of life.

While children are being initiated, parents are also initiated, it becomes a two way process and it gives both sides peace and confidence that you are safe and well informed.

This allows a parent to know and accept that their daughter or son will one day get to a point where their blood will boil and their bodies will be destabilised and need help to find a balance.

The adolescence period is the time when a child needs more help and if the family missed it somewhere along the line, then this period is where all hell breaks loose.

When their blood starts boiling, some people will take advantage of this situation.

Some will pretend that they are there for the teens, mislead and mess their life forever.

This is the bridge between being a child and going into adulthood and it has to be handled well.

I have always talked about synchronising the ancestor which defines us as man or woman with the whole body.

The adolescent time is the time to confirm whether the synchronisation is in order, this will avoid some calamities that we are now faced with.

Tariro Makanga Chikumbirike, head of media, marketing and PR for SafAids, advises on a holistic approach of raising a human being in order to come up with results that will create a grounded person.

This will help lessen or eradicate young adults getting into irresponsible sex, which has contributed to some extent to child marriages.

“Let’s look at the whole issue comprehensively. What are the needs of a young child, what do they need? What are their needs — the Convention on the Right of the Child? How catered are they, are we respecting those issues?

“We need to mould children from the word go — their sexual reproductive health rights and when those changes start happening in their bodies. We look at this as communities, when they start having changes which occur in their bodies, so that they can understand that this is what is happening to their bodies.”

Institutions like schools and churches play an important role in bringing up and initiating children.

Tariro explains how schools can contribute effectively in the raising of children.

“Right now we are talking about curriculum development in our country. What has been included in that? If we are talking about awareness, if we want to empower children let us start from ECD.

Let us not tire in finding ways to bring up and protect our children.

Let us always remember that when we are initiating our children, we also become part of the journey and we are also initiated.

Let us not tire to have a balanced society as this will give us peace.

  • Joyce Jenje-Makwenda can be contacted on [email protected]
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