Delaying marriage until the girl child is 18 years of age Gives Her a Chance to reach her potential. This is the story of Maud Chifamba. Born in Chegutu Hunters’ resettlements, to a less privileged family, Maud defied adversities and hardships with her rare scholastic excellence and broke academic records at an early age.
I was very dedicated to the life I wanted to create for myself, so I always read ahead. At Grade 5 I was top of my class and in Grade 7 I scored 6 units.” – said Maud Chifamba.
Education gave Maud the space to pursue her full potential, which can be a reality for many girls in Zimbabwe if given the chance. It is a powerful strategy to end child marriages and girls who receive an education are less likely to marry young.
Some of my classmates were married off because there was nothing else for us to do after finishing Grade 7.” – she said
Throughout her academic journey, Maud excelled with flying colors; at 11 she self-taught herself and excelled in her Ordinary Levels examinations in 2009. This attracted the attention of the Government through the Ministry of Education who paid for her A-level education passing with 12 points in 2011 at only 13 years.
As of 2012 Maud Chifamba was the youngest university student in Africa. She graduated at 18 with a bachelor’s in accounting Honors Degree and now is an accomplished Chartered Accountant.
She wants young girls across Zimbabwe to know that they have so much potential they can tap into, and their dreams are attainable. She is an active anti-child marriage advocate in the #GiveMeAChance campaign and urges the media to also play their part.
When reporting child marriages, let us report it as it is. It is RAPE! Let us start bringing stigma to this so that people know what they are doing. They are raping children; no wife is 14 years old.” – she concluded.
#GiveMeAChance is a national campaign aiming to end child marriages, by appealing to parents and communities to give ‘Girls a Chance’ to pursue their dreams and not marry them off before the age of 18 years. The campaign is being by implemented by Population Solutions for Health through Population Services International and funded by the Swedish Embassy.
Married off at 15 years in 2011, Melody Gatakata is one of the many girls in our communities enduring the pains of child marriage. This is her lived reality and that of many other girls across the country who are married off at an early age. But how can one call a 15-year-old, WIFE?
Majority of girls are forced into child marriages by their parents/guardians either for social, religious, and/or economic reasons. For Melody, her ‘gambler’ father gave her in marriage to pay off accrued debts from his drinking escapades. She was unable to defend herself from the constant pressure from her family.
And at only 15 years, she experienced multiple losses at an immature age. She became a child bride, was forced to drop out of school and lost her 2-day-old child. Not too long after, at 16 she was already pregnant with another child, and now has 2 boys. Both children suffer from muscular dystrophy (they cannot sit or walk and do not have coordination). Child marriage did not only affect her overall well–being and quality of life, but also that of her children.
I wish I could also speak in English, but I did not get a chance to finish school. My wish now is for my kids to go to school and have a better future. I carry my children to school daily, one on my back, and push the one in a wheelchair. I am doing this to let my children have an education and can in turn take care of me.” – said Melody.
This is her lived reality! By sharing her story, Melody hopes to open the lid on the harsh realities and pain of child marriages and encourage parents to prioritize giving their girls a chance to attain a brighter future instead of marrying them off.
Melody Gatakata is actively advocating against child marriages in the “Give Me A Chance” campaign. The campaign is being implemented by Population Solutions for Health through Population Services International and funded by the Swedish Embassy.
Population Solutions for Health and PSI with funding from the Swedish Embassy successfully launched, the “Give Me A Chance/Ndipeiwo Mukana/Nginikani iThuba; I am A Child, Not A Wife” campaign against child marriages on 30 November 2022.
With girls in the forefront, the campaign aims to create a dialogue in which girls can raise their voices on the issue of child marriages, and how it affects them across different spheres of their lives and share what they see in their communities.
The campaign landed in the 16 Days of Activism – an opportune period to spread the #GiveHerChance message further, during a time when the community is more alert and receptive to messages on GBV. Child marriages is a cruel reality for young girls and a form of violence that needs to end.
Give Her A Chance!
Young girls, in attendance at the launch shared the key drivers of child marriages in their communities which were economic challenges, poverty, religion, culture, and mining.
The Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe, Asa Pehrson assured that the ‘Give Me A Chance’ campaign is the answer. It will act as a gateway to bring opportunities for young girls and women to reach their full potential.
In agreement, the office of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development highlighted that by delaying marriage and by Giving HER A CHANCE to remain in school it enables girls to improve their education, health, and employment opportunities which in turn helps to break the cycles of poverty that passes from generation to generation.
There is a need to sensitize the community, parents and media fraternities to strengthen advocacy and align. The Dialogue was rich with activists Ruvimbo Tsopodzi , Maud Chifamba and Magda Chavhunduka voices’ on the solutions and what needs to be done to end child marriage, as well as balance the gender scale.
“Parents have a strong role to play to avoid getting the girls into child marriages. It is either they are facilitating or protecting.” – Madga Chavhanduka
“When reporting child marriages, let us report it as it is. It is RAPE! Let us start bringing stigma to this so that people know what they are doing. They are raping children, there is no wife who is 14 years old.” – Maud Chifamba
“Those marrying off their young girls need to stop. Our government need to put stiffer penalties because this is a predicament pestering our communities and the nation at large.” – Ruvimbo Tsopodzi
Young girls are vibrant. They are full of dreams and hopes and we are saying #GiveHerAChance. Here are some of the ambitions young girls shared at the Give Me A Chance dialogue:
“When I grow up, I want to be a meteorologist. I want to study weather patterns, geographically features and tell you all about the weather.” – Plaxedes from Zvimba
“When I grow up, I want to be a journalist because I love reporting news. “- Kudzai from UMP
“As a Development practitioner currently studying at Bindura University, I want to do human development. Everything is human centered, to have economic, social, or political development it starts with human development.” Caren from Rushinga
The event marked the beginning of a movement, supported by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, partners, and distinct influencers/ambassadors such as Memory the Mechanic, the brilliant Maud Chifamba, talented Feli Nandi, and the king himself, Mambo Dhuterere giving hope to the many young girls in Zimbabwe.
After all is said and done. We all have a part to play, and this is a platform giving young girls the space to voice, Give Me A Chance/Ndipeiwo Mukana/Nginikani iThuba. Let us take a stand and support the girl child, “Give Her A Chance, She is Child, not a Wife.” For more information, follow pshzim pages for updates on activities on the “Give Me Chance” campaign.