The Herald, 30 December 2013
APOSTOLIC sects under the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA) have committed themselves to discard harmful practices and empower women, youths and children.
The sects pledged that any member who continued to marry under-age girls in violation of the Criminal Law and Codification Act would now face the wrath of the law after an agreement was reached by their leaders to end the practice.
According to the recently-launched Apostolic strategic action plan, disciplinary structures and processes within their umbrella body would be established to facilitate action against perpetrators of child abuse, violence and other forms of exploitation.
The document, which is the first of its kind among apostolic sects, also says police, schools and other relevant authorities will be engaged to ensure child protection in accordance with modern-day practices.
Midwives will be trained to identify danger signs at their maternity facilities known as “zvitsidzo” and refer cases to healthcare institutions accordingly.
All places of worship, commonly known as masowe, will now be required to have proper toilet facilities and potable water. Apostolic schools will be regularised and staffed with trained and qualified teachers. This transition process spearheaded by UDACIZA is expected to run between 2014 and 2016.
UDACIZA secretary-general Reverend Edson Tsvakai said the developments demonstrated their commitment to transform old practices and empower children, youths and women.
“As UDACIZA, we strongly believe that collective commitment, action, sustained partnerships and investment in the identified focus areas will nurture transformation and empower our members to actively participate in development processes in the country,” he said.
Rev Tsvakai, who is a member of Zviratidzo Zvavapostori, said in preparation for the document, leaders from all the 450 Apostolic sects, and about 400 children and women groups under UDACIZA were consulted.
National president of the Apostolic women’s fellowship Mrs Gloria Chitanda, said it was their desire to promote women’s freedom in the church.
“We have been suffering in silence because of some of these restrictive laws in our churches,” she said.
“All our hope is pinned on this document that it will empower women to seek health services and send our children to school.”
Mrs Chitanda, a member of the Johane Masowe sect, said it was difficult for them to get birth certificates for their children as they were not delivered in health institutions. This in turn made it difficult for their children to attend school.
She said raising such concerns within the church was previously impossible.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
In order to move the girl-child from the margin to the centre of equality, any effort must give full consideration to her intersecting identities, as well as the religious context in which she lives.
School curricula also plays an important role since in some societies, indoctrination has been imparted to children to cause pupils to hold certain beliefs and religious values.
The girl-child should be protected against the transgressions of religion and religious sects on her rights.
Elimination of all forms of discrimination against the girl-child has been highly placed on the national agenda.
The empowerment of the girl-child was not just in the religious sector, but militarily as well. Today, as the nation commemorates Defence Forces Days, it is not lost to us that during the First and Second Chimurenga, men and women fought side-by-side to liberate the people from settler colonialism.