Zimbabwe may be on a verge of winning the war against early child marriages. Recent statistics show a significant reduction in new recorded cases for 2018. The number of girls married before 18 is now less than 30-percent. Zimbabwean President Emerson Mnangwagwa attributes the drop to new laws as well as new educational and cultural facilities and programmes. To commemorate World Population Day he opened a new clinic and Youth Centre in Harare.

Hopeley informal settlement, home to more than 220 000 people, is riddled with high levels of unemployment, crime and poverty. Social ills such as child prostitution and child marriages are prevalent here.

The Zimbabwean government and the United Nations Population Fund have stepped in to address some of these challenges. They have built a new clinic and youth centre to support young people in Hopeley. The new facilities, it is hoped, will help reduce unintended pregnancies, early childhood marriages, school dropout rates; as well as incidences of HIV and cervical cancer while creating employment opportunities.

“I am disappointed and worried, according to the statistics that about 18% of the young girls in this locality give birth before they are 18 or get married before they 18,” says Mnangagwa.

Despite recording a significant drop in new cases of early childhood marriages in 2018, the practice remains a major concern.  The Zimbabwean leader believes that more efforts to empower the girl child, like offering free basic education, could help end the cycle.

“As our economy both recovers and modernizes we shall continuously support and introduce and maintain free education at the lower strata. Zimbabwe has a net attendance rate of more than 91% for primary education, suggesting that nearly everyone goes to primary school,” explains Mnangagwa.

This year’s World Population Day theme calls for global attention to maternal health and gender equality.