A LOCAL shoe manufacturing company has extended a lifeline to survivors of child marriages by employing them to reduce their vulnerability.The name of the company, Rated 18 Shoes, speaks volume about Natsai Musarurwa, its founder’s dream to make sure no girl is married off before reaching the maturity age of 18.

BY Phyllis Mbanje

“The name may seem controversial at first glance, but the message behind it is clear — marriage should only be for those who are 18 years and older,” Musarurwa
said.

“The company is always sure to emphasise that they don’t see the women and girls they work with as victims, they are survivors with the strength to take back their lives and achieve their dreams, and Rated 18 seeks to provide a stepping stone for them to do so.”

She added that by exclusively employing child marriage survivors for the production of their handmade shoes and allocating profits towards paying school fees for survivors who want to continue their education, Rated 18 Shoes aims to empower young women to rise above their circumstances and become economically independent.

The company started operating in August 2020 and currently employs two survivors with the aim of increasing the number to over 240 young women around the world within the next five years.

While Rated 18 Shoes is a proudly Zimbabwean and African brand, reflected by the incorporation of African print in the shoes’ designs, Musarurwa says she aspires to make an impact globally.

“Child marriage isn’t a Muslim, Christian, black or African problem,” Musarurwa said.

“It is a global issue, and my dream for Rated 18 is to empower 18 million young women around the world.”

“I believe if you are fortunate enough to be in a position of empower and uplift others, it is your responsibility to do so, and Rated 18 is just the way I chose to fulfil that duty by helping other women realise their potential and success.”

She added: “As the company grows, my desire is to upskill our ladies to take on managerial and executive positions and for those with other aspirations; I want to equip them with what they need to achieve them.

“Ideally, I don’t want women to be with us for a long time, the purpose of Rated 18 Shoes is to simply provide them with some of the resources they need to chase their own dreams.”
Rated 18 currently offers two shoe options, ladies’ sneakers and pumps, which are made using African print fabric.

And with scrap material left from tailored outfits they also make custom pairs for customers looking for the perfect shoes to match their African print attire.

Child marriage remains a global challenge with 12 million girls being married off before the age of 18 every year. That translates to 13 000 everyday, 23 every minute and one every three seconds. In Zimbabwe, one in three girls is married off before turning 18, in most cases to much older men. This deprives them of their basic rights, education and subjects them to physical and sexual abuse.

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Twitter @pmbanje

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