Zimbabwean Teen Teaches Taekwondo To Fight Child Marriage
A teen in Zimbabwe is teaching taekwondo to women and girls in a world where many of them are forced into arranged marriages from as young as just 10 years old.
Natsiraishe Maritsa has been a huge fan of martial arts since she was five, and now she has enlisted a team of women and girls in the sport to fight against child marriage.
Many of Maritsa’s school friends – who are both single and married – gather outside her parents’ house in the impoverished Epworth settlement, where they learn new moves and routines that they can also use as self-defence.
‘Not many people do taekwondo here, so it’s fascinating for the girls, both married and single. I use it to get their attention,’ she told Associated Press.
Sadly, in countries like Zimbabwe, child marriages are all too often abusive, and lead to not only physical and verbal abuse, but rape and then pregnancy-related issues too.
‘We are not ready for this thing called marriage. We are just too young for it,’ Maritsa said, adding that the taekwondo sessions provide a ‘safe space’ for women and girls in tricky marriages.
‘The role of teen mothers is usually ignored when people campaign against child marriages. Here, I use their voices, their challenges, to discourage those young girls not yet married to stay off early sexual activity and marriage,’ she added.
The Constitutional Court introduced a law in 2016 that pushed the legal age a person can get married in Zimbabwe from 16 to 18, however it has had very little effect.
In fact, around 30% of girls living in the impoverished country are married off before they reach the age of 18, the United Nations Children’s Fund has warned.
Because poverty and starvation are rife, many families see marrying off their daughters young as a means of unburdening themselves of extra financial responsibility, and use the money they are paid ‘as a means of survival’.
In response, Maritsa set up the classes to empower both married and single women and girls, and to encourage discussions around child and teen marriage.
‘From being hopeless, the young mothers feel empowered, being able to use their stories to dissuade other girls from falling into the same trap,’ she said, explaining why she began teaching the sport in 2018.
Maritsa’s classes are supported by her parents, who donate what little they have to helping her provide the much-needed support to local girls. What a family of heroes.
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