Zimbabwe on Friday launched a campaign to end early child marriages, heeding a call by the African Union for an end to child, early and forced marriage, and recognizing child marriage as a violation of human rights.
The move was welcomed by campaigners as crucial to progress on the issue that afflicts many African countries.
“We are excited by the launch of the campaign because it is very progressive,” said Beatrice Savadye, Director of Real Open Opportunities for Transformation Support.
“As a country we need to translate this launch into practical ways of dealing with early child marriages, that is harmonizing our laws and make sure they are in line with the country’s supreme law, the constitution.”
She said child marriages should be criminalized with communities being empowered to own the movement to end child marriages.
Savadye said communities should be able to police themselves and reporting child marriages where they occurred.
The United Nations Human Rights Council this month adopted a resolution calling for an end to child, early and forced marriage.
The Council said the practice is a barrier to sustainable development which perpetuates poverty, throwing its support behind the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eliminating child marriage and female genital mutilation.
The resolution recognized the need for national action plans to end the practice which affects some 15 million girls every year, and called on governments to ensure that women and girls are safe and free to make informed decisions on their sexuality.
"Civil society organizations now have a powerful tool to help them hold their governments to account on the commitments they have made to end child marriage and protect girls' rights," Lakshmi Sundaram, Executive Director of Girls Not Brides, said in a statement.
Zimbabwe’s Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda is the African Union’s Ambassador to End Child Marriages.