Gold Lures Kadoma Girls Into Early Marriages

By Nhau Mangirazi

Kadoma-Sixteen year old *Matirasa Phiri looks older than her age
and is already dejected in her second marriage after the first one
only lasted for three years.

Matirasa hails from Kasawe area in the Zhombe communal lands about 80
kilometers from Kadoma.

She explains that her husband Richard Matusha is among well-known gold
dealers in Annex gold mining area situated in the outskirts of Kadoma
town.

Situated about 141 kilometers west Harare, Kadoma is named City of
Gold due to its abundant mineral deposits including gold, nickel among
others.

Annex mining area is located about 10 kilometers out of the town where
poor girls are entangled into early marriages trapped with gold
deposits and cash flushes by dealers abusing majority of girls
sexually.

Part of statistics

Wearing a blue faded dress and won out sunhat, her cracked feet do not
resemble a woman married to a gold dealer commonly known as makorokoza
in Shona language whose lifestyle is attributed to over-spending on
beer and free for all on latest clothing soon after gold panning
errands.

Many young girls like Matirasa are affected by hunger gripping rural
areas of Gokwe and Zhombe among others in Midlands’s province
resulting in them flocking into Kadoma town within Mashonaland West
province becoming part of child marriage statistics.

Matirasa is a school dropout after completing Grade Seven.

‘’I failed to get money to proceed with secondary education following
my father’s death. Life was tough for our mother to fend us including
my two brothers and three sisters. She could not raise money to pay
fees. I got married early as a gateway to a better life than what I
was used to back home. My family members still look forward to me for
virtually everything exerting pressure on my husband financially.’’
She explains.

Authored by society

The cases of early marriages are hardly reported as society takes it
as a ‘’normal way of life’’ around Annex gold mining area.

By the look of things, few parents from nearby communal areas
including Gokwe and Zhombe value educating girls. They prefer
educating boys than girls.

In some parts of Gokwe, girls are married off in exchange for food due
to hunger ravaging as communal farmers depend more on cotton
production in the semi-arid soils.

Matirasa’s story is a script of poverty and child marriages authored
by the society due to poverty and economic challenges here.

‘’It is not about hunger only but other necessities we are envy in
life. As growing up girls we need better clothes among other things’’
she says.

Dennis Machona, a gold dealer adds that some girls are exposed by
prevailing economic challenges affecting the society here forcing them
to flock the mine area for better opportunities.

‘’Gold dealers are overwhelmed by young girls pestering us into
living-in-marriages as their parents or guardians deliberately set
them on us.  They are desperate to be married by gold dealers so that
they get decent living. There is hope for them from gold dealers’’ he
says.

Research and Advocacy Unit report titled Married too soon in Zimbabwe
says payment of lobola remains a closely guided secret family affair.

‘’The family is the custodian of culture and some cultural practices
such as the payment of lobola often expose the girl child to other
harmful cultural practices such as child marriage. Culture continues
to be the most dominant force. In Zimbabwe, for example, the cultural
practice of paying lobola is still going strong despite outcries that
the practice treats women as commodities in the market place’’ adds
the report.

Major driver

Ironically, poverty remains one of the major drivers for early
marriage in mainly rural Zimbabwean provinces.

Poor economic, coupled by successive droughts have increased poverty
levels forcing some young girls to married before they attain the age
of 18 years, according to United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, 2012
report.

‘’Poverty is one of the major reasons for early marriage because when
families are very poor a young girl is considered to be an economic
burden to the family; therefore, if she gets married that is one mouth
less to feed’’, adds RAU report.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 2012 report says Zimbabwe is
among countries with high child marriage prevalence rates in the world
where on average, one out three girls will be married before their
18th birthday.

In 2011, about 31% of the women aged 20-24 were married or were in
union before the age of 18 according to UNFPA 2012 report.

Another joint research by Zimbabwe Government, UNFPA and Zimstat in
2014, l5% women and 0, 3 % men aged 15-49 years were first married or
in union before the age of 15 years.
Child marriages harmful

While child marriage is common in Zimbabwe, prevalence is highest in
Mashonaland Central (50%), followed by Mashonaland West (42%),
Masvingo, 39%), Mashonaland East (36%), Midlands (31%), Manicaland
(30%), Matabeleland North (27%), Harare (19%), Matabeleland South
(18%), and Bulawayo (10%), (UNFPA 2012).

United Nations Children Fund report in 2006 says, ‘’child marriage is
a violation of human rights whether it happens to a girl or a boy’’.

It also adds that child marriage occurs more frequently among least
educated, poorest girls living in mostly rural areas.

‘’The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends,
lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community
activities, and decreased opportunities for better life’’ says the
report.

Matirasa’s sad story remains party of reality to girls forced into
marriage due to poverty especially here in Annex gold mine.

 

*Names changed to protect identities of minor