First Lady escalates campaign against child marriages, GBV . . . rolls out training, empowerment programme in Rushinga

FIRST Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa says women should fully embrace the skills development programme she is rolling out through her Angel of Hope Foundation countrywide to earn income and desist from marrying off children at tender ages as this largely affects their future and capacity to realise their full potential.

Speaking at a meeting with young couples in Rushinga, Mashonaland Central Province, which tops in child marriages, Dr Mnangagwa said her training programmes sought to stem the surge in divorce cases, domestic violence, fight idleness, end drug abuse and ensure people earn a dignified living through the use of their hands.

This comes as women at the oversubscribed event made a commitment to ending child marriages through sending girls to school, embracing self-help projects and acquiring short courses to work for their families without marrying off children as a source of income.

The courses were in detergents and petroleum jelly-making, carpentry, farming, baking, dressmaking, cosmetology, information and communication technology and cell phone and computer repairing.

Amai Mnangagwa also had heart-to-heart interactions with young girls who shared their daily struggles they endure after being married early and their efforts to sustain themselves through performing odd jobs in their communities.

Pastors, teachers and community members joined Dr Mnangagwa in discussions with women while men met separately before they later had a combined session.

Men discuss during a separate interactive session of young men organised by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Rushinga.

“We are meeting as women and this is where we discuss our issues, children and life in general.

What kind of mothers are we? Are we approachable? Is your house welcoming to people? We are saying from the qualities you have, add more and be women of good standing. 

“The courses you did are life transforming. They give dignity and they make you a proud holder of something. Age is not a factor. All that is needed is your zeal to learn. This is all encompassing, including young girls who are entering marriages and all girls who are not in school and there is a reward in future. 

“According to statistics, Rushinga tops in child marriages. Madzimai, who is marrying off children at tender ages between you and your husbands? she asked and the women confirmed they were to blame while others blamed the children for eloping without the parent’s knowledge.

“If these children encounter problems where they are married early, they will cry with you as their mothers. Let us have control over our daughters. 

“Do we have young girls who were married before time or at a tender age? Come and tell me whether you are enjoying the marriage,” she said, triggering excitement in the crowd. 

At this point, those who were married at tender ages shared their heartrending tales.

“As girls, when growing up we must have good manners. We should listen to our parents and get along well with them and not do as we please. I am 16 years old and still in school but most of my peers are already married.

“I want to learn with all my strength and pass, go to university and get a better job to be able to look after my parents,” said one of the girls.

Asked by the First Lady how many friends she has, she said she now had none as she had lost touch with them after they all got married.

The account dovetailed with that of yet another child bride who posited that marriage life was not as rosy as she thought.

“I was married at a tender age and now I am 18-years-old. In marriage, you encounter many challenges. Getting to 18 does not mean we are old enough. 

“We thought when we entered marriage we would always be happy and experience sweet things only but this was not so.” 

“We sometimes meet situations that are difficult to handle on your own and this is different from a situation where you will be with your mother and sharing notes with her. When married, it’s difficult to ask for assistance from our mothers. As girls growing up, we make bad choices,” she said. 

Yet another young girl shared the challenges she faced.

“I was married before 18 but the home is difficult for me to manage. I am not able to look after the children. I left school midway and I have nothing to give the children or put them to school. I am being helped to look after the children by my parents so I am exerting pressure on them. I am still with my husband but life is heavy. When we were dating he promised me heaven on earth but when we got married things were not the same and we are facing difficulties and we do odd jobs to survive,” she said.

Dr Mnangagwa asked the young mothers what they wanted to do in life, she asked if they enrolled for any of the courses she initiated.

“Yes, we took the courses and we are graduating today,” they responded.

“To you my girls, please work hard for the sake of your children who are a blessing from God. Kune vasati vapinda mumba, do not rush into marriage vanangu. First lay a solid foundation so that you succeed in life. Your career is your first husband. Doing something on your own is a good husband who does not die and does not beat you. He won’t desert you or run away from you. I have come with the women’s bank officials and will continue coming here until the children succeed. 

Yet another young girl had words of advice for her peers.

“I am a young girl who rushed into marriage, but I urge my sisters who are not yet married not to rush into marriages. Married life is difficult. Do not rush into marriage, rather pursue your education so that you may have a better future. I have one child,” she said.

Dr Mnangagwa weighed in saying: “What then should we do to end these challenges madzimai?”

A  schoolteacher in Rushinga told the First Lady that child marriages were widespread in the area.

“It is shameful and as women we should feel sorry for our daughters. I am a teacher and we meet situations of this nature in schools. Children are being married at a tender age and if you tell them when the parents are silent, it is of no benefit. I usually ask my children if they do not feel happy to move with their shoulders high because they have something tangible. If you have something, you are not abused in marriage. 

“In my own house I am an asset and my husband cannot ill-treat me because he knows I am a woman of virtue. Be an organised woman who does projects. Let us promise our mother that hatichafe takaroodza vana vedu nekuda mari takuda kuzvishandira,” she said emphatically. 

Evangelist Nelly Gwatidzo spoke about what it means to be a woman.

Evangelist Nelly Gwatidzo and Chaplain Christine Phiri perform a play depicting what happens in marriages dwelling on communication, submission, domestic violence, drug abuse and child marriages among other issues during a combined interactive session of young women and men with First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Rushinga.

“Once referred to as a mother, know that there are children behind you and they are learning from you. How you walk, speak and interact with others, your kids are copying you. So where are you, are you straightforward. Do you know that a woman is like adhesive material which combines and does not separate? There are some mothers who discourage their children from visiting their grandmothers and aunties. Why do we divide people? Some parents do not want their children counselled by others yet it takes a village to raise a child. What we are teaching children is what we shall reap in the future where we will look after grandchildren with various totems. Let us have time with our children teaching them correct things and not marry them off before the time is ripe. The quest for sweet things is leading some mothers to marry off their children young, but our First Lady is saying come and do projects so you can send children to school. As women, are we practicing good hygiene? Some are claiming that their husbands no longer kiss them yet they do not brush their teeth. We must always be smart, starting on our bodies,” she said.

Chaplain Christine Phiri from the Zimbabwe Prison and correctional Service said women were their worst enemies.

“What prevents a woman from rising is another woman, pull her down syndrome. Amai is saying women arise and work for your family. Prostitution no longer pays, it’s cheap, $1 for 2 so why are you in the bar and not joining empowerment projects being spearheaded by Amai. Transformation begins in one’s mind. Our mother said let me bring short courses so that people’s minds are opened and then start projects. This is how we are sharpening the minds of people. Our mother is saying leave the prickly place and come where there are no thorns and have self-confidence. There are some people who are there to look down upon other people and when you succeed they accuse you of using juju or having boyfriends yet Amai is bringing these projects for all but some do not want to be involved. Our mother is not selective but says come and do projects. She wants us to leave bad things. Working hard has nothing to do with one’s age. Believe in yourself, tell yourself that if I go back to school I will make it. I believed in myself, left the bar and became a new creation. I am now empowered because I arose, put my past behind and looked ahead,” she said.

Women’s bank chief executive officer, Dr Mandas Marikanda, urged beneficiaries of the courses to put into practice what they had been taught and visit her bank for assistance.

“Our mother has made us go through courses where we have been taught what to do to make money. She gave us hoes to get into the field and farm. The Women’s Bank was made for me and you so we are using it to access loans. Our mother has come to add on what we have and as a bank we are saying come and let us work together. Once given money we urge you to pay back so that others can access the money as well so that we build our nation,” Dr Marikanda said.

Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Monica Mavhunga, praised the First Lady for her educative interaction especially on child marriages and promised to change as a province and not marry off children before time.

Men were taught the values of honesty, faithfulness and providing security to their spouses and families at all times.

They were implored to play their functions in the marriage fully to flash off elements of betrayal, promiscuity and poor communication.

“There are things we need to pluck out on our own so that they do not torment us. We should always be ready to accept advice because troubles that change us come through close friends, even spouses. There is also a need to be born again and shun the devil who deforms our character and accept God who rebuilds and Christ who transforms,” the men were told during their lively discussions.

At the combined session for men and women, Chaplain Phiri and Evangelist Gwatidzo enacted a play depicting what happens in a marriage set up. 

Chaplain Phiri acted as the husband and Evangelist Gwatidzo was the wife.

The play dwelt on lack of communication in marriage and its effects, submission, domestic violence, laziness, hard work and child marriages.

It also touched on promiscuity, among many other topical issues.

Iyasa drama and dance group perform a play promoting the empowerment of women and girls at the graduation ceremony of newly married young women and men who were trained through Angel of Hope Foundation in various skills as a way of empowering them in Rushinga.

Dr Mnangagwa thanked the community for the reception it gave her.

“I thank you for the reception you gave me. I have been here several times with many programmes targeting the young and the old. During my travels in this province I discovered there was a gray area, focusing on young couples. I have come to focus on men as the heads of households and young women because you are the woman of the house who helps her husband. That is why I brought courses and projects so that your marriages are strengthened. There are some who did not pass through the Gota and Nhanga and that is why we start separately so that we train one another. 

“The courses I brought are for you to start your businesses and this requires financial discipline. These are not the only projects I have brought but there are many including Agric4She where women grow a variety of crops like traditional grains. We want to thank the Government of Zimbabwe led by President Cde ED Mnangagwa who saw that women were lagging behind in terms of farming. My aim is for us to work and curb domestic violence. There are also projects for men to curb drug abuse. On child marriages, according to statistics Mash Central tops. I asked women as to who was doing this between men and women. What do you men say about this? What should we do to stop this practice? I heard there are some mothers who encourage their daughters to have boyfriends at tender ages. They say you can go but don’t let your father come before you. He comes at 9pm so come back by 8pm. As women, what did we agree on to curb child marriages?” she said.

Gogo Ngonidzaishe Mvemve said they agreed that women should have good manners.

“We agreed that mothers must have good manners as children learn from them. We said let us use our hands and stop marrying off our children at tender ages because of a quest for niceties. We agreed to send girls to school and not end them midway to get married,” she said.

The First Lady implored women to hold fast to the agreements they had made.

“To those who are married, stay in love and work for your families. When married you would have entered your husband’s family line so respect your husband and your in-laws. We want to unite families like in the extended family unit of old and not destroy. A daughter-in-law must curb violence and be a peacemaker. We have learnt many things today so remain in peace always,” she said.

Mr Thomas Ruya thanked the First Lady for the courses and efforts to mould families.

“I am truly thankful to our mother of the nation who has brought courses to the people so that they can earn money and look after their families. This is an unprecedented show of love which the country had never witnessed since Independence in 1980. We wish her a long life,” he said.

Similar words were echoed by Mr Lawrence Mugomo who said he was touched by the First Lady’s genuine concern for the people.

“Our mother has great love for mankind. One can really tell by her demeanour that she means well for the nation. By bringing the courses to the people, she is sowing the seeds of success in our communities and we should work hard and not embarrass her. The programme she brought is a real game-changer,” he said.

Performing arts ensemble, Iyasa provided edutainment and kept people on their feet.

Dr Mnangagwa donated to the community maize-meal, sugar, rice, cooking oil, salt, instant porridge and sanitary pads to school going children.

Traditional chiefs also received food hampers and toiletries.


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