Zimbabwe: Teenage Pregnancies Shoot Up

24 September 2021

A total of 4 475 pregnancies have been recorded for girls aged between 15 and 19 years in all eight districts in Mashonaland Central during the lockdown period stretching from March 2020 to February this year.

This is contained in a comprehensive report compiled by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development with assistance from the Victim Friendly Unit, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Lower Guruve Development Association, Childline, Camfed among other stakeholders.

According to the report, 1 436 cases of child marriages were recorded in the same period, while 6 948 cases of gender based violence (GBV) were reported.

Presenting the report to the provincial assembly of Chiefs, the provincial development officer Mrs Judith Hove said the greatest number of teen pregnancies, child marriages and GBV were recorded in rural districts Mt Darwin, Mbire, Muzarabani and Rushinga.

Muzarabani is topping in teen pregnancies with a total of 2 053 cases, 1 370 of them in the 18 to 19-year age group followed by Mt Darwin with a total of 1 716 cases, 833 of them among girls between the 16 and 17 year age group.

Child marriages were high in Mbire with a total of 355 cases with the 15 and below age group recording 314 cases followed by Rushinga with 264 cases, 255 of them recorded in the 16 to 17 age group. Mbire again has the highest incidence of GBV with 1 931 cases, 1 411 of them coming from females above 18 and 855 cases from females below 18.

Bindura follows with 1 774 GBV cases with the majority of cases reported by women. However, Bindura is trailing in teen pregnancies with only one case followed by Mazowe with 17 cases.

Bindura also had the least child marriage cases with only four followed by Mazowe with 29 cases.

Mrs Hove said some of the causes for these figures include poverty, religious and cultural beliefs, schools closure owing to Covid-19 and gold panning activities among other reasons.

The National Aids Council (NAC) partnered the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works to host the provincial assembly of Chiefs to capacitate traditional leaders with requisite information in ending harmful practices which lead to violence against women.

Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Senator Monica Mavhunga said chiefs must embrace digital technology to enable them to access adequate information.

NAC provincial manager Mr Edgar Muzulu said the meeting was to orient chiefs on their role as gatekeepers and key people who could make things happen in their communities.

"We cannot develop as a country if we leave behind chiefs. Let us move together with our chiefs for sustainability of programmes.

"We thank the First Lady Amai Auxilia Mnangagwa for championing healthy living and an end to child marriages and GBV," he said.

"HIV/AIDS, cancer and Covid-19 awareness are done in communities and chiefs are custodians of values and norms. They lead by example and they are influential so engaging them leads to effective implementation of programmes.

GBV, teen pregnancies and child marriages were fuelling sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infections. Chairperson of the provincial Assembly of Chiefs, Chief Nembire said no traditional practice was harmful but criminals soiled traditional practices.

"There is no traditional practice which allows the marriage of a 14-year-old girl. Criminals hide behind tradition and they must be arrested," he said.

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