Time to end child marriages is now if Africa is to progress


19 Jun 2015 | by
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Time to end child marriages is now if Africa is to progress

In Kenya female genital mutilation (FGM) is often a precursor to an early marriage. Girls as young as ten years old are married off to men thrice their age, this happens despite a law against FGM and the recently enacted marriage law which stipulates the age of marriage. 6% 0f Kenyan girls are married off by age 15 while 26% are married by the time they reach 18 years of age........

In Kenya female genital mutilation (FGM) is often a precursor to an early marriage. Girls as young as ten years old are married off to men thrice their age, this happens despite a law against FGM and the recently enacted marriage law which stipulates the age of marriage. 6% 0f Kenyan girls are married off by age 15 while 26% are married by the time they reach 18 years of age.

forced into marriage? Her right to education is ceased. This was the case of my mother who was forced into marriage by her own father when she was just 12 years old When I asked my mother why her father married her off to a man 15 years older than her, she said the major reason was because, in my randfather’s eyes, she was a girl and educating her was not his priority: “What is the point of wasting money on somebody else’s wife?” That’s the way my grandfather viewed her at the age of 12 – somebody else’s wife. He questioned the reason for sending girls to school, claiming that after being educated by their parents they carry their wealth to their husband’s homes.

Unfortunately, my father is no longer here for me to find why an educated man like him accepted to marry a girl and refused to send her school despite the fact that my mother stayed in his house for five years before God could bless her with a baby.” This blog was originally posted on World Pulse, a media network powered by women from 190 countries that lifts and unites women’s voices to accelerate their impact for the world.The Story above and many others is the reason why this year’s Day of the African child is focused on ending child marriages. 

Twenty four years ago the African Union declared 16th June as the Day of the African Child to honour the brave children of the Soweto Uprising of 1976, whose peaceful march against injustice and educational inequality in apartheid South Africa ended in hundreds of deaths. Since 1991 this day has inspired both adults and children to take action to further African children’s rights. This time round the inner theme was to end child marriage on the continent.Every two seconds, a girl is married before she is physically or emotionally mature enough to become a wife or a mother. Globally, 720 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. Every year, they are joined by another 15 million child brides – the equivalent of the entire population of Mali or Zimbabwe. Child marriage affects a staggering

number of girls on the continent about 37,000 everyday denying them the right to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.Without efforts to kill this vice, the number of child brides are expected to double by 2015 according to Equality Now an organization that deals with pushing for equal rights for all genders on the continent.All African countries are faced with the challenge of child marriage, a harmful traditional practice that robs girls of their education, their health and their future.In Africa, high rates of child marriage combined with a rapidly growing population could have devastating human and development consequences. If we don’t act now, the number of girls married as children will double by 2050 and Africa will become the region with the highest number of child brides in the world.Why are child marriages so deep on the African continent? Where poverty is acute, parents may feel that giving a daughter in marriage will reduce family expenses, or even temporarily increase

their income, in cases where a bride’s parents are paid a bride price. In Kenya tradition takes centre stage in many places, child marriage persists because it has happened for generations – and straying from tradition could mean exclusion from the community. In many areas, marrying o a girl as a child is seen as a way to ensure her safety, especially in areas where girls are at high risk of physical or sexual assault. Crucially, gender inequalities across Africa also drive child marriage: in many communities where child marriage is practised, girls are not valued as much as boys – they are considered to be a burden or a commodity. Every time a family is faced with few resources, a boy is chosen to go to school and a girl married off.Child marriage can have life threatening health consequences for girls. Under pressure to become mothers soon after marriage, many child brides become pregnant before their bodies can safely carry or deliver children. Complications in pregnancy

can put them at risk of injury, and even death, as girls who give birth under age 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than young women in their early 20s. Child brides are particularly vulnerable to injury in pregnancy or childbirth: 65% of all cases of obstetric fistula occur in girls under the age of 18. Child marriage denies girls their right to education. Millions of child brides drop out of school to devote their time to house chores and child rearing – if they were in school in the first place. Over 60% of child brides in developing countries have had no formal education2. In Malawi, nearly two thirds of women with no formal education were child brides compared to 5% of women who attended secondary school or higher levels of education3 . Child marriage

puts girls at risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence throughout their lives. Girls who marry as children are more likely to be beaten or threatened by their husbands than girls who marry later and are more likely to describe their first sexual experience as forced. As minors, child brides are rarely able to assert their wishes, such as whether to use family planning methods or practice safe sexual relations. Married girls can be particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Child marriage has negative

implications for Africa’s economic prosperity and development. Because of child marriage, millions of girls miss the skills, knowledge and employment prospects that would enable them to lift their family out of poverty and contribute to their country’s economic development and prosperity. The persistence of child marriage has hindered Africa’s e¬fforts to achieve six of the eight Millennium Development Goals (to eliminate extreme poverty, to achieve universal primary education,to promote gender equality, to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, and to combat HIV/AIDS)

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