There are approximately 105,000 people living in modern slavery in Zimbabwe. As reported over the past five years, Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls from Zimbabwean towns bordering South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia are subjected to forced labor, including domestic servitude, and sex trafficking in brothels catering to long-distance truck drivers on both sides of the borders. Zimbabwean men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in the country’s rural areas, as well as domestic servitude and sex trafficking in cities and surrounding towns.
Ruvimbo was a child bride at 16 when she was forced to marry a man she had not chosen. Within the marriage she soon became pregnant and was subjected to abuse. Seeking a way out, Ruvimbo persuaded her father to let her continue her education and follow her dream to become a nurse. Then, at the age of 19, went to court with another girl who had been subjected to child marriage to fight for the rights of all girls in Zimbabwe.
I got married early at 15 after my dad saw me walking with a guy and forced me to go and get married to him, making it a forced marriage. The guy was not my boyfriend, he was not employed and was abusing drugs and alcohol.
I fell pregnant after four months. I realised my life was headed for disaster. I got the courage to go and face my dad and present my situation.
I grew up wanting to be a nurse, and my desire is to live the life I wanted than what you are forcing me into. He resisted at first but later on gave in.
That time I already had a baby. I then got support from Beatrice until we were supported by Veritas.
My aunt said that’s how marriages start so I had to make it work.
I joined Roots in 2013 and Roots partnered with Veritas, an organization that had researched and found that girls were being married before attaining 18 years. They decided to find two girls to take the cases to court. That’s how myself and Loveness ended up taking the issue of child marriages to court.
Judges were sceptical at first, arguing I had consented with the boyfriend. Then later on, heard our case and clearly saw that child marriages are happening in the country. In January 2016, they made their ruling that girls should be married until after attaining 18 years.
My experience is painful. I was made to sleep outside when I was pregnant. I would sleep hungry. I was not used to eating one meal a day, but this became the norm. I was used to be beaten up, until I realised that this abuse should not happen to me or to another girl child. This motivated me to take the issue of child marriages to court.
Some are accepting it [victory in court], and some are not. There are some girls who married early before the ruling, and now we can’t take them out. Those accepting it are agreeing that young girls cannot bear the burden of running a home as a wife. Leaving my marriage shows that I just could not manage it as I was still too young.
I would like to urge young girls protect themselves and value education. Without education there is no life. I lost out on my education as I got married when I was in Form 3. I have gone back to school and now doing my O Level. Girl child, protect yourself. If you don’t, your life is doomed.
Other men are asking if they have sex with a girl below 18, does it mean they should not marry her? And my response is yes, you can’t marry her. The girl child must protect themselves. If they don’t, they will face abuse. They must pursue their education, as it is very important.
Narrative provided by Girls Not Brides