#SisterToSister Program Keeps UMP Girls Off Early Marriages and HIV Risk

THE Sister to Sister program being spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Community Health Intervention Research project (Zichire) is working flat out to ensure young girls in Uzumba, Maramba and Pfungwe (UMP) pursue their dreams without the inconvenience of early marriages and HIV infection.

By Michael Gwarisa recently in UMP

The issue of early marriages is most prevalent in the UMP district with members of the Appstolic sect (Mapostori ekwa Marange) and artisanal miners (Makororkoza) being the major perpetrators  and drivers of early marriages.

In an interview on the sidelines of a National Aids Council Media tour, Zichire Programs Officer, Aundrence Machakanise said they had formed a number of support groups for young girls in UMP with the aim of educating them of the importance of setting goals in life as well as equipping them with basic Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for girls.

Chitimbe Health Centre Support group for girls follow proceedings

“The issue of early child marriages is very rampart here in Uzumba, Chitembe area. Members of the Apostolic churches condone child marriages and as a result most young girls marry very early. We noted that most girls lacked basic knowledge about HIV and sexual reproductive health and they were just making decisions based on circumstances on the ground.

“As Zichire, we selected areas we deemed were high risk areas and red zones when it comes to early marriages. Children in this area get married at ages 12 or even 10, some drop out of school and see marriage as the only salvation. We then recruited those girls from various vulnerable backgrounds, be it child headed families, orphans, single parent headed families as well as those who are alredy sexually active,” said Machakanise.

She added that the girls we recruit go though a one year session where they will be learning various issues life issues from HIV prevention, SRHR, basic life skills, communication and motivational sessions.

Audrey, a member of the support group at Chitimbe in Uzumba says she almost gave up on her dreams of becoming a Magistrate after she dropped out of school at soon after Grade seven.

Sister to Sister Mentor, Sister Mutsipa taking girls through proceedings of the day

“I scored five Units at Grade 7, i want to go back to school and i want to be a Magistrate.

“I had my boyfriend and at some pint at thought of getting married and settling down. Since the Sister to Sister program was launched i have seen the other side of life and i want to revive my dreams of studying,” said Audrey.

Another girls from the same Support group who identified herself as Precious said her parents died when she was doing her form one and circumstances had force her to withdraw from school, killing her hopes of becoming a Doctor.

Meanwhile, National Aids Council (NAC), District Aids Officer (DAC), Owen Mupemhi said the Sister to Sister program had proved to effective in reducing the figures of child marriages as well as HIV in the area with latest figures indicating that HIV prevelence has been going down in the UMP district.

“What happens in the Sister program is that a mentor recruits girls from different vulnerable backgrounds. The girls are then taken through sessions where they are informed and educated on issues to do with HIV and other issues. They are also capacitated on how to deduce vulnerability so that they also capacitate their other peers.

“We have 10 mentors who are operating in 10 wards under this project and we identified the girls from the 10 wards using statistic from the ministry of Social Welfare as well as from the ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community development. The program started in June 2017 and according to national assessments that were carried out five years or so back, the child marriage prevalence was around 30 percent,” said Mupemhi.










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