Poverty, Child Marriages and Development in Rural Zimbabwe

Poverty and child marriages in rural communities have effects on each other…but how can we best address these complementing problems that are hindering development in rural communities. In my own opinion, I believe that it is poverty that is driving the numbers of child marriages higher in African rural societies. Blessing Vava also commented in The Zimbabwean a local newspaper that poverty is the underlying factor that triggers child marriages. However, those in rural communities appear to be topping the list of child marriages as a result of severe poverty which seems to be inherent in African including Zimbabwean rural communities. In support of this view, Unicef 2013 report noted that females who come from poor families are the ones who got into child marriages the most as compared to those who come from rich families.

 

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As a brand ambassador, I travelled to most rural communities in Zimbabwe and I have seen that most families are in deep poverty and they seem to be fine with that, however, the majority of them are those who entered marriage at a young age between 15 years and 20 years. Some of the reasons pushing for early child marriages apart from poverty, include lack of education, orphanage, limited access to information, peer pressure and biological pressure, as well as parent negligence, (I personally witnessed a number of older parents saying that sending a girl child to school is a loss because one way or the other she is going to get married and benefit another family elsewhere, so they are reluctant to push for girl child education). All these aspects need to be analyzed and taken into consideration by everyone who wants to see a healthy community, especially in rural areas.

 

These marriages mostly affect the girl child who is already facing a lot of disadvantages due to the nature of our African culture which put the boy child first. When poverty strikes girls feel much burden and made to think that if they get married they will be in a better state of life with the belief that being a mother comes with a lot of privileges not knowing it’s a wrong choice. Once they got married their potential is cut off and they become confined to the house chores which does not add any value to their life or community at large besides becoming child-bearing machines. After having children, most of the families who married early are facing a bigger challenge to send their kids to school for proper education leading to an extended poverty cycle and a variety of challenges again in the society. The challenges that may be encountered due to poverty besides child marriages and poor community development can be in form of poor health and high deaths, World Health Organization (WHO) affirmed this by stating that nutritional deficiency is associated with mortality and morbidity in infants, young children and mothers. This makes me believe that there is a special relationship between poverty, health and death.

 

 

Poor people are most likely to have insufficient nutritional balances because they cannot afford a good meal on a daily basis. So their bodies become weak and open to several attacks from a variety of diseases which they will struggle to fight naturally, leaving them with a secondary option to go and seek medical attention from clinics, hospitals and other medical attention providers. The challenges go on because medical attention is not granted for free, payment is needed first before one is medicated.

My question is that, if one is failing to feed him or herself where will the money to pay for medication come from? This simply means that death is the guaranteed outcome in most cases and also one of the most powerful weapons in fighting poverty, education is disqualified from being a need in this scenario.This triggers poverty and it will be a cycle sort of a thing because instead of focusing on development, much priority will be given to hunger and health. That is why most families in rural communities are trapped in Poverty cycles that are even harder to break away from and passed on from generation to generation. Even if the government, NGOs and other private AID givers try to alleviate this poverty and bring development, it will be very difficult because it is deeply rooted in the generation foundations and also these Aid givers find themselves fighting in multiple war fronts in one battle to build a better world for all.

That is they are fighting to improve health and wellness, promote education, promote community development and eliminate poverty. To win this war, all war fronts require equal attention in various forms. In simple terms, enough artillery and proper strategic planning are required to make sure victory is certain when fighting a humanity war like this. I am surprised that today Africa with Zimbabwe included is receiving the largest and longest humanitarian Aid support from multiple stakeholders ranging from local governments to private and international humanity players to promote health, education, fight poverty and promote development. However, despite these efforts poverty, hunger, education, health and development still needs much attention on daily basis. In affirmation Radelet (2006) wrote that Aid has been there in Zimbabwe since 1980 and between the years 1980 and 2005 the EU spent close to 1.2 billion euros for the support of development in Zimbabwe.

Herbert Gara (2009) in his dissertation (Zimbabwe from 1980-2000) cited the works of Thompson Scott and Silver Brett to further affirm that African rural communities are still the poorest and less developed despite the larger amounts of Aid being poured in on nearly daily basis. They highlighted that Africa have resources in abundance both human and material combined with Aid they must be at a better stage in terms of development, but it is still the poorest and underdeveloped part in the world. I believe the solution must be generated from analyzing the causes of these problems first before jumping into pouring AID which is mostly done by most AID providers in rural communities. Without enough data on the causes of poverty and child marriages as well as other problems that affect rural community development, I think that all AID given without a deep research and understanding of the major causes of the need is a waste of resources.

 

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For example in a farming country like Zimbabwe when there is hunger, Aid agencies just come and give food supplies to the people with the generalized thought that the country has drought caused by poor rains. However in most cases if we take a deeper research we find out that poor rains are not the only major causes of such hunger but, things like poor farming methods caused by poor farming knowledge as a result of poor farming education together with the lack of efficient farming equipment and other special agricultural inputs are also major ignored players. With such information, the Aid is directed to the most critical points such as educating farmers on excellent farming methods and providing effective equipment as well as education on crop variety per region requirements. Once this is properly done hunger and poverty together with other social problems stemming from poverty are solved.

The Aid support is not a waste of resources in this case because people are fed for life with a once off effort enabling us to shift our focus totally to other areas needing support. Simply all Aid givers must come together and find good ways to teach people how to help improve themselves and stop helping people in almost everyday life in order to save resources and spread them elsewhere, however, there are other exceptional cases like crisis and emergencies that must always be addressed in a special way. Personally, I am frustrated by a bad culture that we Africans have developed, it is a culture of receiving. We are now used to receiving Aid every day even if we can rectify the cause on our own we tend to relax and look out for humanitarian agencies to put their hands on us and we smile with joy not knowing we are killing ourselves because when the Aid is withdrawn or frozen the consequences are severe. The European Commission-Zimbabwe joint Annual Report of 2006 commented in support of this perspective stating that when official EU Aid was partially suspended around the year 2000 in Zimbabwe, education, health and agriculture sectors were severely affected.

writer
Verengai Mabika
Midland State University, Zimbabwe

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