Women within apostolic sects have formed an organization which they say aims at educating their male counterparts within the church about child marriages, accessing antenatal care amongst others.
The Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (AWET) was formed by concerned women within the apostolic sects at the height of rampant child marriages and other such cases within the church.
AWET has more than 40 branches across the country.
Speaking during a Family AIDS Care Trust (FACT) organized workshop in Kwekwe recently, AWET point person in the town, Mufaro Mangwiro said the organization was started in a bid to reduce child marriages within the church.
‘Gone are the days when one old man just wakes up claiming to have dreamt of a lady. We are moving to put an end to such norms that are threatening to wipe off the current generation of girls.
“We decided to form the organization after realizing that we need to educate our male counterparts of marrying underaged girls whereby a man can simply say I have dreamt of that girl and he marries her. We are trying hard to educate them on the dangers they are faced with in doing so,” she said.
She said AWET has also gone a long way in convincing women within the church to access prenatal and antenatal care during pregnancy.
“We are fighting hard in trying to convince our female colleagues so that they visit clinics and health institutions when they are pregnant instead of giving birth in houses which exposes them to a number of dangers associated with giving birth within houses as per the norm. We are trying to do away with such practices,” she said.
She however said they were still facing resistance from other sections of the church who felt they should not forgo their church’s ‘tradition’.
“We are still facing resistance from both men and females who feel the way of doing things within the church is the best. We are however not relenting and we will continue fighting till we win the war. It is not easy to convince people to leave their way of doing things, it takes time but eventually we will get there,” said Mangwiro.
Apostolic sects hogged the limelight last year after a 13-year-old girl died while giving birth at an Apostolic shrine in Marange Manicaland Province.
Since then, cries have been growing louder and louder for interventions within the sects to stop marrying underaged girls.
Meanwhile, speaking at the same function, Pretty Ncube from Zimbabwe Association of Church Related Hospitals (ZACH) said cases of child marriages remain high in Kwekwe district despite the age of consent from 16 to 18 by the supreme court.
“We are yet to see the results according to the statistics we are receiving. It might take time and a lot of awareness for people to understand the dynamics of what exactly is transpiring and what it means,” said Ncube.
She however implored men to desist from abusing underaged girls saying it had the country.
The government has since declared to take child marriages by the horns as it was threatening to wipe off the current generation.
FACT, one of the organizations playing a leading role in the fighting child marriages, is implementing a project which seeks to empower adolescent girls so that they help to bring out solutions to the barriers they encounter in accessing care and treatment services.
The programme is being implemented in Kwekwe, Umguza, Umzingwane and Chimanimani.