Zimbabwe Battles Poverty-Driven Child Marriages and Drug Abuse

UN Highlights Challenges to Women's Empowerment in Zimbabwe

by Adenike Adeodun

In Zimbabwe, child marriages and drug abuse, fueled by poverty, are major hurdles in advancing women’s gender equality and economic empowerment. This alarming trend was the focus of a recent roundtable in Harare, organized by the Diplomat Business Network Club, where UN Women’s Representative Fatou Lo spoke extensively on these issues.

Despite legal reforms raising the marriage age to 18, implementation remains a challenge. The UN’s Spotlight Initiative has highlighted this legal achievement but acknowledges the persistence of traditional practices and mindsets that continue to endanger girls’ rights.

The situation is dire, with over 32% of Zimbabwean girls married before the age of 18, according to a statistic from the United Nations Population Fund. Poverty is often the driving force behind these early marriages, with families feeling they have no alternative but to marry off their daughters for economic relief.

Alongside this, the country faces a significant drug abuse problem, contributing to the high dropout rates in schools. The UN, collaborating with the World Health Organisation, is delving into the drug supply chain in Zimbabwe to tackle this growing concern.

According to a report by Newsday, Lo’s statement at the event emphasized the need for a holistic approach to these issues. Addressing poverty and mental health issues, as well as disrupting the drug supply chain, are crucial steps in safeguarding the future of young women and girls in Zimbabwe.

Research by the United Nations Children’s Fund and local organizations indicates that 60% of school dropouts are linked to drug and substance abuse. This stark reality underscores the urgency of the situation and the need for targeted interventions.

As Zimbabwe continues its struggle against these societal ills, the UN’s involvement and spotlight on these issues are vital in driving change and fostering an environment where women and girls can thrive free from the shackles of poverty, early marriage, and drug abuse.

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