Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
FIRST Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa has spoken strongly against child abuse and early pregnancies that are rife in communities saying they are a hindrance to social and economic development.

She said traditional leaders’ wives, due to their proximity to women and the girl child, should expose abuse cases.
Chiefs’ and village heads’ wives were challenged to be the voice of the voiceless as some abuse cases are reported to them before being heard in traditional courts.

Abuse cases have increased during the Covid-19 lockdown period as women and the girl child were locked down with their abusers.

The lockdown has also seen some school pupils getting pregnant.

The First Lady was speaking in Siabuwa, Binga yesterday where she had been invited by Chief Siabuwa’s wife to appreciate empowerment projects she helped kickstart.

The projects include goat rearing, poultry and community gardening to improve nutrition while some of the goods can be sold.

Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Deputy Minister Jennifer Mhlanga, represented the First Lady at the event which was attended by scores of Siabuwa villagers.

She said it was time to shift from lip service when it comes to addressing women and girl child suppression issues.

“We are here because for a long time the girl child has been a victim of many circumstances that have at times destroyed her potential. The concept of the empowerment of the girl child has been popularised, but sadly it has only been a lip service,” said the First Lady.

“Our children are victims of abuse and marginalisation. They suffer the infringement of their rights. Some are sexual abuse victims and others are physically and emotionally abused.”

She said it was crucial for the girl child to stay in school for them to achieve their dreams adding that society needs to tackle child marriages and early pregnancies head-on.

“The economic costs associated with early and unintended pregnancy are very high. They suggest that investing to prevent early and unintended pregnancy is not only the right thing to do but also makes sense economically,” she said.

She commended Government for the recently promulgated Education Act which allows pregnant pupils to continue with their education saying it will help close gaps that have come about due to abuse.

In her own speech, Deputy Minister Mhlanga said Government was taking development projects to the most vulnerable districts and communities and women need to be agents of change at local level.

She said her Ministry, through the Women’s Bank will provide loans that will be used to kickstart development projects.

The Women’s Bank will work with traditional leaders to reach villagers that ordinarily have challenges accessing the bank.— @nqotshili