In 2016, Ruvimbo Tsopodzi and Loveness Mudzuru appealed to the highest court in Zimbabwe – the Constitutional Court –to amend the Marriage Act. The Act as it stood stated that a child of 16 could get married with parental consent. Supported by ROOTS, a Girls Not Brides member, Ruvimbo and Loveness’ appeal was granted by the Court and marked a significant step towards ending child marriage in a country where 1 in 3 girls are married before the age of 18.
Ruvimbo herself was a child bride at 16. She was forced to marry a man she had not chosen. "My experience was painful. I was made to sleep outside when I was pregnant... I was not used to eating one meal a day but this became the norm. I 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 marriage to court."
Ruvimbo sought a way out. First, she persuaded her father to let her continue education and follow her dream to become a nurse, and then at the age of 19, went to court with Loveness to fight for the rights of all girls in Zimbabwe.
Since January , Ruvimbo has continued her activist role as an Ambassador for ROOTS. In this video interview with SAfAIDS she talks about her past as a child bride and child mother, her reasons for wanting change, and the progress that still needs to be made towards ending child marriage in Zimbabwe.
Ruvimbo’s decision to take on the law was supported by many in communities across Zimbabwe. However, the reactions of some have shown that there is still much work to be done. As Ruvimbo says,
"This abuse should not happen to me or to another girl child."
Ruvimbo also stresses the importance of education for girls, and the need for young women to take control of their own destinies: "I would like to urge young girls to protect themselves and value education, without education there is no life".
Beatrice Savadye, a member of ROOTS and Ruvimbo’s mentor, reaffirms the importance of communities coming together to act collectively, and how grassroots action can create a ripple effect reaching policy-makers, national laws, and beyond:
"Let’s work together as Zimbabweans in ending child marriages, so that the girl child can have a healthy life today and tomorrow."
This post was originally published in 2016. It was re-published in June 2018 to coincide with Day of the African Child.
In the time it has taken to read this article 26 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds