As the sun sets marking the end of another day, the mining town of Shamva suddenly comes to life. People from all walks of life including illegal gold miners, some already intoxicated fill-up the numerous night spots in the town enjoying their daily harvests.
The night clubs in Shamva are already buzzling with sounds of Zimdancehall, popular music genre in Zimbabwe at the moment in preparation for another fruitful business day as small scale miners popularly known as Makorokoza start trickling from every corner ready to spend their hard gained cash on young girls who could be seen standing on every dark corner of the town in search of ‘clients’.
One striking feature about the most clubs in Shamva is that their bigger population of ladies are young girls below the age of 16.
The young girls are not deterred by age or being surrounded by older people as they chase the green back which of late has been scarce in Zimbabwe but in abundance in Shamva such that a visitor to the area would easily think he/she is in some other country due to its negligible exchange of hands without hassle.
Scantily dressed young girls could be seen gyrating at blessers in reference to Makorokoza’s their habit of spending cash on women, wiggling their bottoms as if their lives depend on it. In effortless rhythm, they seductively dance in front of their ready-to-attack male counterparts.
Within minutes, one of the blessers disappear from the night club in the company of a young girl into the nearby bush for some business that anyone can guess is transactional.
For these girls, business blooms during weekends as the miners take a break from their exhausting sedentary lifestyle of spending hours digging deep into the earth for the precious mineral.
According to a 2016 National AIDS Council (NAC) report on Shamva District, most of the girls who end up into commercial sex are children of farm workers within the area who go for months without a pay due to the poor performances of most farms in the country.
Some of the girls are school dropouts who could not proceed to secondary school due to economic hardships facing the country.
Of late, Shamva has become a hotbed of child marriages and new HIV infections.
One of the girls who took part in an awareness campaign on child marriages cited that for the Shamva community to see an end to the rising cases of child marriages, community leaders and government must engage in rampant awareness campaigns to all partners involved.
“There is need for all parties involved, which include the girls, the artisanal miners and peer educators to come together and map the way forward. It’s a war which needs collective effort for it to end,” said a form three student only identified as Melissa.
Concerned about the situation, Simukaupenye Integrated Youth Academy (SIYA), a nonprofit making organization, has been holding awareness campaigns in the area targeting both the young girls and community leaders as well as peer educators to try and salvage the situation.
Speaking to 263Chat on the sidelines of a Girls Symposium on Child Marriages, which coincided with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender violence and child marriages, SIYA Director, Wellington Bakaimani said “most girls fall prey to these miners and at the end of the day they impregnated which is another burden as they will need to take care of themselves and their children.
“it is against this background that we have resorted to holding these campaigns so that we teach young girls on the dangers associated with early sexual activities and alcohol abuse,” Said Bakaimani.
NAC Director for Shamva District, Shepherd Zanamwe said lack of recreational facilities also contribute to child marriages as most children end up going into binging places where they are likely to be exposed sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.
“So when these are exposed to artisanal miners they contract HIV related illness if not contracting the virus itself. It is a real fight in this area and the Mash Central Province as whole. The local authorities must come up with mechanisms to keep young girls in check by providing facilities where they can meet as youths and share ideas as peers,” said Zanamwe lamenting the need for behavioral change amongst the youths in order to fight child marriages and HIV/AIDS.
Statistics on rising HIV/AIDS and child marriages prevalence among youths is a step back in Zimbabwe’s efforts to fight against the scourge.
According to the NAC 2015, Mashonaland Central province has the highest number of child marriages followed by Mashonaland West while Bulawayo has the lowest rate.
According to the report Mashonaland Central tops at 50% followed by Mashonaland West (42%), Masvingo (39%), Mashonaland East (36%), Midlands (31) Manicaland (30%) Matebeleland North (27%), Harare (19%), Matebeleland South (18%) and Bulawayo (10%).