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She wanted more accountability on child marriage. So she made a film.
April 7, 2017

Group of women and men around a sign saying ‘Not Ripe for Marriage!’ (Courtesy of Beatrice Savadye)
The organization ROOTS holds a meeting to raise awareness of child marriage in Zimbabwe. (Courtesy of Beatrice Savadye)


Zimbabwe’s Beatrice Savadye grew up in a province where child marriages were more frequent than in other areas of her country. She witnessed several of her female high school classmates forced to drop out and marry before the age of 18.

Many had been pressured to engage in sexual activity by their partners and were too inexperienced and intimidated to insist on condom use. After the girls became pregnant, their families insisted on marriage. Others were forced to marry due to poverty. In addition to losing their chance at at an education, the girls were at an increased risk for gender-based violence and HIV infections.

“After noticing the high figures of girls rushing into marriages, I started a campaign called Not Ripe for Marriage. I had also noted that to fight child marriages, young girls need the necessary support that will hinder … such practices,” she said. “The campaign gathered momentum, from small community meetings, road shows, public meetings, engagements with relevant stakeholders, which include traditional and religious leaders, schools and subsequently the government.”

With the support of Savadye’s organization, Real Open Opportunities for Transformation Support (ROOTS), two girls successfully challenged Zimbabwe’s marriage laws. The country’s Constitutional Court officially banned child marriage as of January 20, 2016.

But Savadye knew her work was not done. “While we celebrate the landmark ruling that banned child marriage, there is a gap in terms of information reach amongst our communities in understanding and appreciating legal recourse. It also remains with the law enforcement agents, specifically the police, to be vigilant and treat any matters concerning child marriages with utmost urgency and diligence. Laws can be there, but if they are not being enforced, it is a sheer waste of time,” she said.

She created a documentary film, “Girls Leading Change…a journey to ending Child Marriage in Zimbabwe,” as “a tool to raise awareness on the perils of child marriage and the ban on child marriage.” The goal was to challenge communities to fight the practice and hold government officials accountable so they would address “the root causes of child marriage such as the inconsistencies in the marriage laws, age of consent and the constitution which allow for paedophiles to prey on young girls.”

The film also sends a message to young girls to “exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights with responsibility” and tells victims they have “an opportunity to rewrite their story and become change agents.” Their families should also be aware of the consequences and “look for other alternatives outside marrying off a girl when she falls pregnant,” she said.

As YALI Network members, there is much you can do to combat child marriages. Along with sharing the video and raising awareness on social media, Savadye said, YALI members “can also invite us to their activities as a means of sharing our work in the communities they work in. This can be in the form of collaborations or partnerships at programming level.”

She also points out that ending child marriage is part of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. “YALI leaders can play a watchdog role and see if their governments have laws that do not promote child marriage. No action is too small; tweet, write a letter to your representative, blog or convene a dialogue on child marriage!” she said.

Interested in Beatrice’s work? Learn how you can stand for integrity on our YALIUnites page.