Minister Of Women Affairs, Community , Small And Medium Enterprises Development bemoaned child marriage in her speech.
“The setting aside of this day every year to focus on the family unit and the developmental issues that it faces is very important, as the stability of communities and nations can be best realised when stable family units are the norm”‘ said Dr Sithembiso G.G Nyoni today at the launch of National Commemoration Of the International Day of Families in Ward 14, Gwanda District.
Dr Nyoni went on to say, “As a nation, Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating this day, and bringing to light issues that impact on families that are in need of attention for redress and strengthening”.
The International Day of Families was promulgated by means of the United Nations Resolution 47/237 of 20 September 1993, and has been celebrated every year from 1994.
Through the Resolution, the family unit is affirmed to be the natural and fundamental entity in society as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
This year’s commemoration of the International Day of Families is running under the International theme “Demographic Trends and Families” which also has been adopted as the National theme.
Under the 2023 International theme the United Nations has identified key demographic trends that are of significant developmental interest to families across the globe and in Zimbabwe the following four trends are occurring.
Statistics from the Zimbabwe 2022 Census indicates that there has been a decline in Crude Birth Rate and the General Fertility rate in Zimbabwe. The Total Fertility Rate was higher in rural areas at 4.2 children per woman as compared to 2.8 children per woman in urban areas.
Interventions are therefore necessary to increase the age of first childbirth for young women, and to facilitate more educational and economic opportunities to capacitate them. This will help develop more viable families as better educated and economically empowered mothers will ensure that their families experience access to key social and economic services for their good.
Zimbabwe experienced a decline in the Crude Death Rate in 2022 compared to 2021 figures. The current life expectancy for Zimbabwe in 2023 stands at 62.16 years, which is a 0.43% increase from 2022.
According to the UNFPA, life expectancy for females is 64 years and for men it is 59 years. It is therefore important to tackle issues that contribute to non-natural mortalities such as disease, crime, GBV, unsafe work spaces and road safety issues, and to improve health and wellness interventions.
This will play its part in increasing life expectancy and reducing the mortality rates in the country. This will invariably impact positively on families and help them stand as the strongest social safety net available.
On the issue of ageing as a demographic trend, the United Nations has stated that declining mortality and fertility rates have resulted in rapid ageing with World Population Prospects indicating that by 2050 an average longevity globally is to reach around 77.2 years of age.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in 2023, 3% of the national population in Zimbabwe is over 65 years of age. The elderly in this age group are playing the role of household heads and caregivers. This is on top of economic migration by the economically active population that leaves many elderly heading households.
In Zimbabwe 1.0% of women aged 20–24 years, got married before attaining age 15, with 1.6% of these women being from the rural areas compared to 0.3% in the urban areas. Additionally, the National child marriage rate from 2006 to 2022 stands at 34%.
These figures give credence to the reality that early marriages stand as a negative nuptial variable that impedes on the socio-economic development of families, communities and the nation at large. All stakeholders, communities and families need to realise that this vice of early marriages deprives everyone of a better, sustainable future, hence the need to stamp out this scourge.
Overally the Zimbabwean family unit is currently faced with the scourge of drug abuse, on top of other long standing depravities in the community that include GBV, child marriages, sexual exploitation, child prostitution and poverty.
All stakeholders were asked to come together and develop complementary responses that will help tackle the cause and impact of the challenges to individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole.
“The Government of Zimbabwe values the existence and important role that the family unit plays in the development of the nation.
Chapter 2, Section 25 of the National Constitution directs the State and all Government institutions and agencies to protect and foster family unity and to provide the relevant assistance to family caregivers, and to work to prevent domestic violence.
The various cultures across Zimbabwe place extreme importance to the family unit in its nuclear and extended forms and focus on the extended relation network that provides support to all in varying circumstances”, said Dr Nyoni.
For a society to exist and function sustainably, there is need to ensure that the family unit’s existence, protection and development is prioritized by all public and non-public players in the governance and development space, Dr Nyoni said.
The Minister concluded by imploring all stakeholders to support families to engage in sustainable livelihoods activities based on locally available natural endowments and take into consideration important issues such as gender and disability mainstreaming, environmental protection, agriculture and climate change mainstreaming.