DELIVERED AT YHE 40TH PLENARY ASSEMBLY SESSION OF THE SADC PARLIAMENTARY FORUM,
10TH NOVEMBER, 2016,
The President of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, in absenstia;
Deputy President of the SADC PF, Hon Joseph Njobvuyalema;
The Speaker of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Adv. Jacob Mudenda;
Hon Speakers here present;
The Secretary General of SADC PF; Dr Esau Chiviya;
Hon Members from SADC PF Member States;
Cooperating partners of SADC PF,
Staff of SADC PF;
Invited guests, ladies and gentlemen;
Members of the Media.
Comrades and friends.
Today is a great day in the history of our SADC Region. Today will go down in the annals of history as the day that our Members of Parliament, as elected representatives of the great people of our region, set aside political and other differences to resoundingly say NO to child marriage by delivering a Model Law that will no doubt provide guidance to all our Member States as they develop or refine their own national laws to address child marriage.
It is my singular honour to be invited to the launch the Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting those in Marriage.
It has been more than a year since the SADC PF and other partners began developing a SADC model law on eradicating child marriage and protecting those already in marriage with so much commonality that it can easily be adopted or adapted as Member States develop legal instruments and policies to confront this embarrassing scourge. The Plenary Assembly Session is the highest decision-making body of SADC PF - the deliberative body that brings together 14 national parliaments of Southern Africa. It is only logical that we are launching this Model Law here.
Hon Members, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to make it very clear from the onset that for us in Zimbabwe, our government joins the greater progressive SADC Region in expressing our abomination for Child Marriages and we are committed to ending the menace. Unless we all join hands and walk our talk on this issue, many of our Member States will fail to benefit from the demographic dividend.
My Principal, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Honourable Robert Gabriel Mugabe, is firmly with us on this matter. A trained teacher, President Mugabe understands very clearly the need transformative power of formal education and the need to keep all children in school. Our President knows that child marriage prevents young people from realizing self-actualization. Accordingly, he has spoken very strongly against child marriages, as has our First Lady, Amai Grace Mugabe.
Hon Members, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to reveal that advocacy and activism against child marriages have been as vociferous in our Parliament as in the rest of the other Parliaments in the SADC Region.
It is therefore gratifying to note that as a result of our common position on issues to do with Child Marriages, it was possible for members of SADC PF to consult widely and come up with this Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting that Already in Marriage.
Within the SADC Region, traditional culture, poverty and religion have been cited as drivers of Child Marriage.
Girls should be in schools and at the playground, not in bedrooms as wives.
As congratulate all those who worked hard to develop this Model Law and all those who supported the process through technical and or financial resources, allow me to stress that the real work begins now.
Members of Parliament would need to use the floors of their national Parliaments to advocate for the eradication of child marriage as well as the enactment of nationally relevant laws and policies in this regard. More importantly, Members of Parliament can and must use their oversight role to ensure that National budgets support implementation of laws and policies to eradicate child marriage and support those already in marriage.
We need to empower girls in our Southern Africa Region with education while protecting them from early marriages.
As we all know, educated girls will create a generation of empowered women in our region.
Let me also hasten to add that an educated generation of women will result in an empowered Southern Africa.
Allow me to congratulate and commend our media within the SADC Region, for reporting about the development and adoption of this Model Law. While I was preparing my remarks I went to Google to appreciate how our media have been reporting about this Model Law and I was impressed by the many media reports from different Member States focusing on various stages in the development of this law. I would like to urge our media to keep up the good work. We would like to see more media articles explaining aspects of this Model Law and saying what Member States are doing or not doing with respect to implementation.
We need to create awareness of this law and to ensure that it is made available to as many stakeholders as is possible. I would suggest, among other things, that copies of the Model Law be made available to all libraries of our High Courts and Law Schools in the SADC Region.
Additionally, we should redouble our efforts to tackle many more issues that affect our people that include teenage Pregnancy, unmet needs for family planning, lack of harmonization of laws, lack of comprehensive sexuality education, lack of health facilities that are user friendly, lack facilities for screening for diseases and inadequate health provision personnel.
Allow me to end by once again congratulating SADC PF MPs for uniting in fighting for the rights, protection and welfare of our children through developing this bold Model Law.
Now is the time to explore possibilities and opportunities in adopting and domesticating and implementing this Model Law.
It is now my singular honour and privilege to declare this Model Law duly launched.
I thank you!