Child marriage is a major human right violation. Despite the existing laws against the practices remains widespread. Child marriage often occurs on poor rural communities. These marriages are often organized by older relatives. Once this girl is married, she is left out of school, separated from her peers, is more likely to be a victim of domestic violence and could suffer complications related to early activity and child bearing.
According to the International Centre for Research on Women, if the current child marriage trends continue, 142 million girls will be married off in the next decade. These statistics are very worrying and call for urgent and sustainable solutions. It is important to note the girls that are more vulnerable to child marriage if effective solutions are to be put in place. Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before 18 years than girls in higher income households. In these households, child marriage is often seen as a way to provide for their daughter’s future. But girls who marry young are more likely to be poor and remain poor.
Despite these challenges, a number of opportunities to end child marriage exist. Child marriage limits young girls’ skills, resources, knowledge, social support, mobility and autonomy. Young married girls have little power in relation to their husbands and in-laws and this makes them very vulnerable to domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Education for instance is an important factor in ending child marriage because girls with higher levels of education are less likely to marry before 18 than girls with lower education levels. Ensuring girl-child retention in school in addition to high quality education will lift girls’ income-earning potential as well as their socio-economic status.
Straight Talk Foundation (STF) is at the forefront of exposing the harm of child marriage thereby contributing to its eradication. Through a number of initiatives Straight Talk Foundation is rising community awareness to stand up against child marriage especially the young people. For example young people are encouraged to join Straight Talk clubs where they share experiences on curbing early marriages in their communities by sharing information from the Straight Talk and Young Talk Newspapers. During school visits, STF trains young people in life skills to help raise their esteem and assertiveness to be able to stand up against such harmful practices. STF also trains communities and young people in income generating activities to help them form self-sufficient livelihoods.
“My parents decided that I drop out of school to get married. They arranged a man for me. I took a Young Talk Newspaper talking about the dangers of early marriage. But my mother said she got married early and nothing happened to her. I asked her if she had a job and was happy with her life but she did not respond. I left home because the pressure was too much to get married. I started to do small jobs to support myself at school. One of my teachers also offered me support,” Napeyok Mariam.
“Since P 1, I have never slept on a mattress. My aunt gave me a sack which I use as a mattress and blanket at school. Children laugh at me because I sleep in a sack. People in my village have advised me to get married but I know what I want. I will continue sleeping in that sack till I get what I want,” Napeyok Gloria.
As we work hard to end child marriage, we must also increase support towards young girls who are already married by particularly providing family planning and maternal health services. This is largely because young married girls have limited bargaining power to use contraceptives in addition to limited access to sexual reproductive health information and services. Limited access to these services exposes these girls to higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. Ending child marriage will greatly contribute to a more educated and economically empowered community as well as giving a chance to girls to fulfill their potential.