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Zimbabwe: One in Three Girls Sexually Abused Before Age 25

ONE in every three girls in Zimbabwe is sexually abused before they reach the age of 25 and there is need for awareness raising among diverse communities on the dangers of child sexual abuse, an official with the Swedish Embassy in Harare said Tuesday.

Speaking during a signing ceremony of a cultural agreement between the Swedish Embassy and the Culture Fund in Harare, the Embassy's Head of Development Cooperation, Maria Selin, said culture could be used as a powerful tool to address such challenges bedeviling communities, hence their continued funding of the sector in Zimbabwe.

"Culture can be a powerful tool against poverty and vulnerability. We keep investing in the sector because we think it has a critical role to play because if you look at gender equality, it is about changing your mind set and understanding why we need to do that.

"After that we need to promote action that changes attitudes among young men and young girls towards child marriage and sexual abuse which I think is so much prevalent here in Zimbabwe.

"One out of three girls before they reach the age of 25, are sexually abused in one way or another and it is horrible. It should not be like that," she said.

Selin said while investment in culture was not usually on top of the priorities of donors, the Swedish Embassy had realised that investing in culture would also lead to development as the two were somewhat correlated.

"But there was a time when we needed to understand, perhaps to a better degree, how we can connect the dots, that investment in culture can also be targeting development challenges because that is where we are coming from.

"We would like to invest in culture to make sure we have diversity."

She said their investment in culture in Zimbabwe should make an impact and speak to Sweden's overall objectives of poverty alleviation and assisting the vulnerable as well as changing communities' behavior towards gender based violence norms and attitudes to limit gender based violence and child marriages.

Culture Fund Executive Director, Farai Mpfunya said there was need to explain more on how culture and the arts could be infused into development as more often they were misconstrued for being things that they were not.

"We are often also misunderstood because Zimbabwe is in the process where it is re-defining different stages between arts and culture, culture and heritage and customs and tradition and heritage. We are reshaping and repositioning ourselves in the modern era as a competitive player in the global arena," he said

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