Zimbabwean teen teaches taekwondo to fight child marriage - StarTribune.com

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Harare, Zimbabwe-In Zimbabwe, teenage taekwondo enthusiasts forced to marry 10-year-old girls due to poverty or traditional and religious practices are using the sport to provide girls in poor communities with opportunities to fight.

17-year-old Natsiraishe Maritsa is a 5-year-old martial arts fan. He has been using Taekwondo since he was 5. Taekwondo rally young girls and mothers work together to fight for child marriage.

In the poor settlement of Epworth, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) southeast of the capital Harare, a 4-year-old child and some former classmates of the now married Natsiraishe lined up in the dusty little yard outside their parents’ home .

They enthusiastically followed her instructions to stretch, kick, hit, hit and hold. After class, they talked about the dangers of child marriage. The recently married girl holds the baby and takes the lead.

They told one after another how their marriage became bondage, including verbal and physical abuse, marital rape, pregnancy-related health complications and hunger.

After the meeting, Marica told the Associated Press: "We are not ready for marriage. We are still too young for this." She said that this is a "safe space" for girls to share their thoughts.

Marica said: "In people's campaigns against child marriage, the role of underage mothers is usually ignored. Here, I use their voice and challenges to discourage unmarried young girls from giving up early sexual activities and marriage."

According to a law made by Zimbabwe in 2016 after the Constitutional Court repealed an earlier law allowing girls to marry at the age of 16, neither boy nor girl could legally marry until they were 18.

However, this practice is still common in economically difficult southern African countries. According to UNICEF, it is estimated that 30% of girls in the country are married before the age of 18. Child marriage is common throughout Africa. With the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty has increased and the pressure on families to marry young daughters has increased.

For girls, and for some impoverished families in Zimbabwe, marrying a young daughter means reducing the burden, and the bride price paid by the husband is usually used by the family as a means of earning a living. Child marriage.

According to the organization, some religious denominations encourage girls under the age of 10 to marry older men for "mental guidance," while some families force girls who engage in premarital sex to marry boyfriends in order to avoid "shame."

Through her association called the Auditorium for the Vulnerable Minors, Maritsa hopes to increase the confidence of married girls and single girls through martial arts classes and subsequent discussions.

Zimbabwe imposed strict lockdown measures last week to ban public gatherings in an attempt to slow the unprecedented surge of new COVID-19 infections. This forced Marica to suspend the meeting, but she hopes to resume once the lockdown is lifted.

"From hopelessness, the young mother feels capable... able to use her story to persuade other girls not to fall into the same trap," Marica said. She said that she started the project in 2018 after seeing her friends leave school to get married. .

Some people, such as her best friend, 21-year-old Pruzmay Mandaza, are now planning to return to school, even though her husband forced her to resign as the vice chairman of the association and prevented her from participating in taekwondo training.

In the neatly decorated small house decorated with Maritsa medals and pictures, her parents prepared juice and some cookies for the girl-sacrifices they made to help their daughter.

Marica said: "I can only accommodate 15 people in each class, because my only support is the support of my parents." She said: "My father is a small farmer, and my mother is a full-time housewife, but they want for me. A little sacrifice was made to achieve the goal." She said, "He is my jogging partner."

Taekwondo is not very popular in the avid football Zimbabwe, but there are many professional and backyard training schools here.

Despite limited resources, Maritsa remains committed to its mission.

Women’s groups warned that as COVID-19 keeps children away from school and deepens poverty, early marriages may increase.

Even some people attending the Maritsa family meeting seem to have different priorities.

"We need to know how to make our husband happy. This is very important." Privilege Chimombe is a 17-year-old mother of two children. Her first child was 13 years old and was abandoned by her husband.

Marica said: "These are the views we must fight against." "It's difficult, but it must be done."

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