Kept in check by tradition, Zimbabwe's women cricketers focus on future
DOMBOSHAVA, Zimbabwe, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Mitchell Chivare, a 20-year-old who used to play for Zimbabwe's national junior cricket team, takes her kit off the washing line in preparation for her comeback match as a blistering sun beats down on her back yard.
She lives in Domboshava, a town just north of the capital Harare, and has spent more than a year away from the sport to have children.
A promising medium-pace swing bowler at one point earmarked for her country's senior team, Chivare has been allowed by her husband to start playing again, but some of her former team-mates have not been so lucky.
"I have many of my friends who were very good at cricket but they have since stopped due to early marriages. Their husbands do not want them to play sports," she told Reuters.
Harmony Kurisa, founder and coach at Domboshava's Harmonics Cricket Academy, where Chivare has learnt the game, tells the same story.
"We have lost many girls to early marriages... some of whom we had groomed for the national team," he said.
"Most of them ...their husbands forbid them from playing. We hope they will come back one day," he added, saying three players had failed to return to the academy in the past year after becoming pregnant.
Chivare said she married younger than she expected to, giving birth to her first child 18 months ago and her second two months ago and "I did not have anyone to leave them with when playing cricket."
Now, with her mother able to look after both, she is free once more to pursue her dream of representing Zimbabwe as a full international. "I believe I will come back stronger. I still have the passion and the talent," she said.
Early marriages such as Chivare's are common.
One in three Zimbabwean women aged 20 to 49 was married before the age of 18, according to U.N. agency UNICEF, and while women are legally free to follow careers, cultural traditions mean many are still expected to play subservient roles within marriage.
But despite such barriers, women's cricket in Zimbabwe is on the up.
The country was admitted last year to the 11-strong elite group of playing nations, and the team - including 17-year-old Harmony player Mitchell Mavunga - are currently in training for a T20 World Cup qualifying tournament in the United Arab Emirates in September.
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