23 Jan

Africa Must Commit to Ending Child Marriage at 24th African Union Summit

Statement to the African Union 24TH Summit, January 2015

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

African Union Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage

General Secretary/World YWCA

Presented at the Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs

“Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda”

22 January, 2015, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 Thank you Mme Chair for according me this opportunity to address the meeting, in my capacity as African Union Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage.

I recognise the participation of young women and girls in this summit who have made specific recommendations on health, education, economic empowerment, media and technology, and immigration policies/including visa restrictions. I will be transmitting their detailed report for to you for information and consideration of their recommendations.

I commend Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma for her unwavering and practical commitment to young women and girls, as exemplified by launching the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage ~  in response to a painful reality.

Every year, about 15 million adolescent and teen girls are married around the world[1], almost always forced into the arrangement by their parents. In sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of girls are married by age 18: that is two in every five girls. There are 41 countries world-wide with a child marriage prevalence rate of 30% or more, and of these 41 countries, 30 are from Africa1. If we don’t act now, the number of girls married as children will double by 2050 and Africa will become the region with the highest number of child brides in the world.

Child marriage is a development, human rights and safety issue for girls. I fully support the statements today by SADC, Malawi, Zimbabwe; Zambia, Uganda, Togo, Ghana, and other members’ states; and OAFLA who have made clear recommendations on this issue in this meeting. Agenda 2063 must have meaning to these girls lives today.

I therefore this singular recommendation:  adopt a specific Commitment to ending child early and forced marriage; and specifically:

I therefore recommend that the African Union adopts:

  •  Development and adopt an African Common Position and special protocol to end child marriage.
  •  Child Marriage must be included as a key indicator for monitoring agenda 2063 and data tracked through community monitoring as well as national statistical data such as census and demographic health surveys. Ending child marriage will address a range of issues of human rights of the girl child including education, health, economic empowerment, health including comprehensive, integrated and quality sexual and reproductive health information, education and services and as well abuse of culture.

The African Union should encourage States to:

  • Develop and implement National Action Plans to end child marriage which should include ensuring that legislation specifically outlaws child marriage, empowerment of girls, prosecution of perpetrators, and promotion of cultural transformation among other measures.
  •  Ratify;  domesticate and implement the Maputo Plan of Action on Women’s Rights and the African Charter  on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

I recognise and reach out to various partners including community groups, civil society and donors partners to continue to support this effort. We can end child marriage in a single generation.

[1]The countries are: Zimbabwe 31%; Senegal 33%; Congo 33%; Gabon 33%; Sudan 34%; Sao Tome & Principe 34%; Benin 34%; Cote d’Ivoire 34%; Mauritania 35%; Gambia 36%; Cameroun 36%; Tanzania 37; Liberia 38%; Nigeria 39%; DRC 39%; Ethiopia 41%; Zambia 42%; Somalia 45%; Uganda 46%; Eritrea 47%; Burkina Faso 48%; Sierra Leone 48%; Madagascar 48%; Malawi 50%; Mozambique 52%; Mali 55%; Central African Republic 61%; Guinea 63%; Chad 72%; and Niger 75%. Source: UNFPA database using household surveys (DHS and MICS) completed during the period 2000-2011

13 Jan

Africa shape up or forever be cursed

twigsI spent the whole week biting my tongue. I held back even when tempted. I had this this big lump on my throat. I could feel the burning  tears flowing on my cheeks, though dry eyed I remained. The pain, the contradictions, the reality was too much for me to fathom.

In natural reflex, I tightened the belt on skirt. I needed to find a way to hold off  pain, that pain of a mother, a sister in face of death ~ losing loved ones as if it was in a dream. Not one, not two, twelve OR seventeen but 2,000 more and counting.

I felt a chilling numbness of my soul, as I recollected the sorrow and pain of generations and generations gone by, centuries and counting. The loss etched in the deep psyche of my being, the one which I never knew existed.

Not only is my mind running way back, to times of slavery, colonialisms, genocides, world wars and all kind of atrocities the world has witnessed, but my mind is re-living the recent carnage peoples have experienced in modern history.

This week, I saw the world rise in unison, for liberty, freedom and justice, demanding and protecting the sanctity and sacredness of life. I saw the world, though, rise for some and not for all. It was good enough that the world arose to reclaim these values; the same values that African women like my great grandmothers and myself have been demanding for centuries.

As I listened to the authentic pain, the fractured narratives, the contradictions, the labelling, I was reminded about our village funerals and all the gossips around it. The competition about who is the chief mourner; the ultra-visible and yet non appreciated  distant cousin who appears without anyone expecting them. The castigation of those who miss the funeral, even when they send mari yechema or a representative to the important family gathering. In my village such stories will then be told for years and years to come forming and giving meaning to life in its own profound ways.

It’s as if from a deep sleep I have woken up, to face the harsh truth. I can feel again the birth pangs. I feel the swelling of anger within, a repressible sense of rejecting violence, injustice, exclusion and death.

I can touch the deep lump of sadness, that sadness that sits there, and does not want to go away. I tentatively explore, so that I touch, feel and name what this is. I now know and I can name it.

I am a mother of the abducted Nigerian girls who are yet to be rescued. I can touch, feel and name that emptiness within; that feeling of a mother, who has only discovered today that her daughter, her baby, her little girl is the one who has been so abused and forced to strap herself with bombs and killed many of her loved ones.

My soul is bruised, my inner being is scratched, I know that silence is really not an option. I can feel, touch, and smell my inner quest for peace, inner peace, and yes for justice and for dignity. The pain of the Nigerian mothers is my own pain. I am an African woman, and I feel raped multiple times. My body and soul is ripped by pain, impunity, and this senseless war.

I reject hopelessness with the mighty power of a wounded lioness. I reject the narrative of demanding the West to come and mourn with Africa, for mourning with the other is never demanded. It has to be natural. Empathising with the other is not always expressed through a single gathering or a simple tweet. It is a lifelong commitment to clean and heal the woundS, and ensure that the solutions found together are enduring and lasting

Africa, my Africa, has to simply step up and put down the fires burning the house from within. It’s doable, if only Africa’s leadership can dare. It’s doable in my life time and our life time.  My Africa is filthy rich and does not need to roam the world with a begging bowl. My Africa is damn rich and yet its resources are its curse. My Africa can feed the world, and yet it marries off its girls as a means out of poverty. My Africa must put its money to books and pens and not guns and bullets.

My Africa has to simply face the facts. It has a leadership and an accountability deficit.  Africa’s leaders must put its people first, prioritise, innovate and empower. It’s possible to reach that dream of a prosperous Africa which is at peace with itself. It simply demands that Africa shapes up or will forever be cursed.


11 Jan

Evicting with impunity and without a conscience

Mazowe evictions  (c) ZLHR

Mazowe evictions
(c) ZLHR

The unfolding eviction stories of the Manzou Estate villagers, in Mazowe again reveals the underbelly of our own institutions and the quality of governance underpinning the decision.  As the story unfolded in the full gaze of the public, it’s clear that this is a case of evicting with impunity and without a conscience.

This is a case of evicting with impunity, as it shows a clear lack of respect of the existing laws of Zimbabwe in dealing with such cases; the basic tenets of protection of human rights and respect for due process of the law. With an existing court order against evictions, without provision of alternative land; the evictions of January 7th, 2015 amount to a clear contempt of court. It alternative land for resettling these people was availed, why were they not transported to this new place together with their belongings and before the start of the rainy season?

The quality of governance is measured by the respect with which is arm of government gives to the decision of the other. In this instance, it’s clear that the order to evict, to burn and push people to live in the open without alternatives smirks a clear disrespect of the due process of the law.

Actually, I wonder whether all the relevant ministries affected by this decision gave their contributions and all agreed that this was the most appropriate course of action and within this timing…i.e. ministries of education; health; social services; agriculture, justice; lands and home-affairs. In public institutions such as a government, one would not necessarily take an action that adversely impacts on the mandate of the other without consultation and agreeing on remedies or mitigating factors. When people talk of government action, it’s not a reference to a single ministry but the collective responsibility of all. If there is no mutual accountability and mutual responsibility; internal discordance is discernible.

It’s clear that the timing and manner of these evictions, shows a lack of conscience.

  • Schools Opening this Week. This is that week of the month and the year which is so defining of our children of school going age. Its starting school, going into a new class or a new school. These children cannot go to school like others, not because of their own government, opting to evict just before the school opened. For many of the people making such decisions, their own children will be chauffeur driven to school, they are well fed, warm and in clean uniforms.  Their future is secured. And yet, with the tax payer’s money, these leaders are destroying the future of other people’s children. The future of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of every child, whose education is vital today and not tomorrow.
  • Health and Well being. Again, it is a fact these evicted people are living in the open. They are at risk of disease or death, since they have no decent shelter, food, clean water and access to serves. I wonder if the health and well being of people was taken into account when the decision to evict without protection and alternatives was taken. This is how the country creates poverty and stretches the already meager resources. The nation is already struggling to have decent wages for the health workforce and doctors and nurses have been or threatened to strike. Why strain an already strained public health sector?
  • Farming Season. This is the height of rain fed crop farming season in Zimbabwe. Any person who derives their livelihoods from the soil will plant a little patch of maize or groundnuts. The planting season is over. Therefore by evicting people at this time of the year, the villagers are deprived of the basic livelihoods. Even if they are resettled elsewhere, they will not be able to plant and harvest anything at this time of the year. Zimbabwe does not have a social security or welfare system that can provide the evicted people with alternatives until they are on their own

Yes, it is the prerogative of government to resettle people. This however must be done in a way that respects the law, fosters dignity for people and protects their basic welfare and well being of citizens. Building a prosperous Zimbabwe is dependent on the way that we invest in the present, education for the children and protect human rights for all.


09 Jan

Looking for a role model?

LeavesDo not search far.

Start within your own family, your own community and neighborhood.

The extraordinary lives of ordinary people among us is often under-celebrated, unrecognized and under valued.

My Thought of the Day: 9.01.2015

07 Jan

The Day Our School Closed and the War Raged On (Snippets of My Life 16)

The school bell rang. The hour was odd. We were all summarily requested to assemble under the Musasa tree in the open school grounds. We usually would go to the Assembly in the middle of the school yard with lines for each grade fixed with little bricks. The Headmaster, Mr Sango would usually stand on that platform in front of us.  There was a flag pool, but I do not recall the Rhodesia Flag flapping against the wind. Yet, my memory remembers that day in 1980, when the fresh clean cloth of the Zimbabwe flag was hoisted and our school had reopened its door again.

Let me come back to this odd day in 1978. The school was surrounded, by mean men with guns.  They wore fatigue and camouflage uniforms. They were not the Rhodesian soldiers that frequently raided our villages looking for stolen cattle (nyama yemabumbe), or the ones I saw after the Marumisa battle a few weeks earlier. They were mostly young man, black men; and two. They were not the comrades (vana mukoma), whom we had come to know, not as individuals but the ways in which they conducted themselves. These one were too relaxed and kind of unruly. They introduced themselves as comrades who had come to liberate and protect us.

Headmaster Sango, though shaken had to show courage and confidence. He had to make it easier for all of us. One of our teachers whispered, they are Selous Scouts. I had no idea what that meant. I felt that we were in the middle of some strange and fearful situation. I nervously clung to my friend the late Veronica Basvi, listening.

Only a few months back my sister Eddie had been arrested by the Rhodesian army and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Our mother has come back and told us that was tried under Martial  law. When sister Eddie appeared in court, she was charged as war collaborator, cooking for comrades and was  to be imprisoned for life, twenty years to a teenage rural girl. She only walked out of Chikurubi with independence.

At the same time, our  mother used to pray every night for brother Alphonse. He had disappeared from home one night and we did not know where he was. A previous week Alois Dzotso, a young neighbour, had also disappeared and the village whispered that “akayambuka “crossed the border into Mozambique.  It was year later that brother Alphonse appeared home from Wenera, he was among the hordes of young Zimbabwean men who had gone to South African mines.

Well, this was the war, and I now was facing the men with guns.

We were simply told that there will be no school again, and forever. We were each asked to go straight home and not look back, i.e. musacheuka kusvika masvika kumba. The teachers were given 24 hours.

Fear gripped our village. No one knew what was going to happen next.  Amai, a widow with many burdens already on her shoulders had to find a way to protect her young teenage daughters. My other was put in the early morning shiri yekutanga bus service and was sent off to Marandellas to stay with out sister, in Chihota. The war was not that bad there, so we heard. She was enrolled at St James School under her new name Gilda.

As for me, our mother woke me up at 3 am that Saturday and we walked the more than 15 kilometres from Magaya village to Murewa centre. By sunrise, we were knocking at my sister’s gate.  I was sent to stay with Sis Gladys who had just married Andrew Yona, a Malawian who was a cook for a local white man in living at Murewa centre. They lived in the boys quarters (2 roomed house with one outside room for toilette and shower), and an outside single tap of water.

This is how I ended up spending years selling groundnuts and sweet potatoes at the market at Murewa centre. The most painful moment was when we went to sell roasted groundnuts  to students at Murewa Mission.  We sold the roasted nuts in bottle tops and matchstick cartoon, for a few cents.  We could only sell at school breaks or lunch times. I just wished the war to end, and for me to go back to school. I would dream of myself in the clean and ironed uniform, in secondary school and one day working possibly in the post office at Murewa Centre. At least, me and my sister earned enough from the market to buy soap and sugar to send to my mother once in a while.

Well, we used to listen to the radio in the quiet of the night and follow the progress of the war. We danced our hearts out when independence came. Freedom it was. Opportunities it beckoned, new possibilities for the young girls and boys of the new nation.  Indeed, I finally wore my clean and well ironed uniform, when our Magaya primary school was upgraded to an Upper top.

I am still searching of the dreams of freedom and independence. Quality education, decent jobs and opportunities for young Zimbabweans is still a pipe dream for many.

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