Natsiraishe Maritsa

A teenager in Zimbabwe is teaching taekwondo to young girls who are being forced into child marriage.&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspAP

A teenager in Zimbabwe is teaching taekwondo to young girls who are being forced into child marriage.

Many girls in the African country, some as young as 10, are forced to marry due to poverty or traditional practices.

To give them a fighting chance at life, 17-year-old Natsiraishe Maritsa has enlisted a team of women and girls in the sport that teaches self-defence.

Maritsa’s school friends are seen assembling outside her parents’ house in Epworth to learn new moves and techniques they can use for self-defence. “Not many people do taekwondo here, so it’s fascinating for girls, both married and single. I use it to get their attention,” Maritsa told Associated Press.

Maritsa has been a martial arts fan since the age of 5. Now, she has become a full-time teacher with students as young as 4-years-old.

The teenager’s lessons are taken very seriously with students enthusiastically following her instructions to kick, punch, strike, and spar. Once the session is done, she sits down with her class and talks to them about the dangers of child marriage.

“We are not ready for this thing called marriage. We are just too young for it. The role of teen mothers is usually ignored when people campaign against child marriages. Here, I use their voices, their challenges, to discourage those young girls not yet married to stay off early sexual activity and marriage,” said Maritsa.

The teenager adds that her martial art sessions are aimed at providing a ‘safe space’ for girls who are forced into child marriage.

Under Zimbabwean law, neither boys nor girls are legally eligible to marry-until the age of 18. However, the practice of child marriage is widespread in the country due to economic problems.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, an estimated 30% of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18.

Maritsa says her martial art class was set up to empower both married and single girls in the country, and educate them about the dangers of child marriage.

“From being hopeless, the young mothers feel empowered, being able to use their stories to dissuade other girls from falling into the same trap,” said Maritsa.