Child marriage is a reality in Africa, and we all have a role to play to stop it. One step towards it will make a difference and this is what Memory did in her inspiring TED Talk “A WARRIORS CRY AGAINST CHILD MARRIAGE”. However; before reflecting on her talk, let’s glance at some facts about child marriage in Africa.
Child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, is a reality for both boys and girls, although girls are disproportionately the most affected. Child marriage in Africa is widespread and can lead to a lifetime of disadvantages and deprivations. Child marriage is a violation of children’s human rights as well as a public health issue. Girls who get married early are more likely to experience violence, abuse and forced sexual relations than those who delay marriage up to matured age. Despite being prohibited by international human rights laws and many national laws, child marriages continue to persist with millions of girls around the world losing their childhood. It is forcing them out of education and into a life of poor prospects, with increased risk of violence, abuse, ill health or early death. While boys are also married at early ages, child marriages affect girls in greater numbers and with consequences which can be devastating for their health and well-being.
Millions of young girls around the word are married before they turn 18, many against their will and in violation of international laws and conventions on women’s rights. Over the past decade, 58 million young women, one in 3 girls in the developing world is married before the age of 18. One in 3 girls in the developing world will be married by her 18th birthday. If nothing is done to stop current trends, more than 140 million girls will be married as children by 2020. That’s 14 million every year or nearly 39,000 girls married every day. According to media report release by UNICEF, the top countries with the highest rates of child marriage before age 18 are: Niger 75%, Central African Republic and Chad 68%, Bangladesh 66%, Guinea 63%, Mozambique 56%, Mali 55%, 52%, South Sudan and Burkina Faso 52%, and Malawi 50%
In the developing countries especially the top 10 high rated countries, the major drivers that lead to early child marriage are; conflicts, harmful traditional practices as clearly enlightened by Memory in her TED Talk “A WARRIORS CRY AGAINST CHILD MARRIAGE”, lack of alternatives opportunities for girls in particular, the lack of opportunity to go to school, threats and coercion. According to World Vision report on Child marriage, all those subjected to child marriage are more likely to experience domestic violence, forced sexual relation, poor reproductive health, and lower levels of educations. Child marriage often results in separation from family and friends and lack of freedom to participate in community activities, which can all have major consequences on girls’ mental and physical well-being.
Addressing child marriage requires recognition of the various factors that contribute to the perpetuation of the practice. These include economic factors (the need to support many children, paying lower dowries); structural factors (lack of educational opportunities); and social factors (sense of tradition and social obligation, risk of pregnancy out of wedlock, avoiding criticism whereby older unmarried girls may be considered impure).
According to Memory, Girls face difficult issues, at the community level every day. So if these young girls know that there are laws that protect them, they will be able to stand up and defend themselves because they will know that there is a law that protects them; says Memory.
Girls’ and women’s voices are beautiful, they are there, but we cannot do this alone. Male advocates, have to step in and work together. It’s a collective work. Memory cries; “What we need is what girls elsewhere need: good education, and above all, not to marry while 11 years.”
Let’s join the campaign and stop child marriage by being part of the process of achieving #2030NOW Global Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;
- End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
- Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
- Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation