Disturbed by the increase of rampant child marriages in Zimbabwe, church leaders from various denominations have joined hands to start an anti-child marriages campaign.

Christian Voice International-Zimbabwe (CVI-Z), an umbrella body of church leaders will target mostly young girls.

CVI-Z director, Tapfumaneyi Clement Zenda said the church will partner with a number of stakeholders like the police as it intensify its effort to sensitise the girl child on the dangers of early child marriages.

Religion is one of the major drivers of child marriage in Zimbabwe.

“We shall come down to your province and districts with the anti-child marriage programmes, we hope to bring together all stakeholders such as the police, schools, legal practitioners, traditional chiefs, media, civil society, Vapostori and others that have to do with children in society and come up with stronger teams to partner with the church to vigorously campaign against such practices.

“We aim to bring anti-child marriage information right to the doorstep of every girl child, teenager or youth. We also want to strategically and tactfully involve and penetrate Vapostori at the end of the day we must speak one language,” he said.

The less education a girl has, the more she is likely to marry during her childhood. Approximately one in three girls in Zimbabwe are married before their 18th birthday.

The Customary Marriages Act has no minimum age for marriage, while the Marriages Act, which governs monogamous marriages, states girls under 16 cannot marry without the written consent of a Justice minister.

In January, the Constitutional Court ruled that section 22(1) of the Marriage Act that permitted children under the age of 18 to marry violated the Constitution.

Zenda said the nationwide programme will also involve road shows, school visits among others, while literature on anti-child marriages will also be compiled for distribution.

“Youth-friendly desks must be established in our churches, select one of your elders or deacons to freely interact with young people notably on this issue, encourage them to open up on such challenges, eventually the leader must be in one of the committees or working closely with child protection committee in your area, the pulpit must be used as a platform to speak against child marriages.

“We welcome ministers of Christ, who are competitive in literature production, to begin putting together information that shall be published on child marriages in Zimbabwe, the literature shall be approved by the ministry of education and deemed fit to be distributed,” he said.