One of the most difficult tasks manyh African societies is the paradigm shift of a conservative society. Child marriage remains a vicious reality for millions of girls across Africa, denying them the right to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Poverty, lack of education and harmful religious practices are some of the causes that have been attributed to millions of girls being married off before they turn 18. On June 16, Africans stood up for children’s rights by marking the Day of the African Child. This year’s theme for the day was:”…..Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”, and it represents an appropriate call to end a practice that destroys the lives of millions of girls across the globe. The discussion on June 16th was centered on what has been done and what still needs to be accomplished in order to advance and empower girls.
Most institutions which advocate for the abolition of child marriages called for urgent legislative attention that strengthens provisions that protect children against harmful cultural practices and a clear and harmonized minimum marriage age.
The issue of forced marriages is a phenomenon that is not showing any signs of relenting despite countless global petitions. It is estimated 14 million girls globally are forced into marriage before the age of 18. 40% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are married as children – that’s two in every five girls. Mozambique has one of the highest statistics, with more than 50% of girls being married off before the age of 18.
Most of these girls are married off before they mature physically or emotionally. Any girl who is forced into marriage at a young age has a high probability of not receiving the educational and economic opportunities that facilitate growth out of poverty.
Therefore Chiefs and village elders have a great role to play in stopping this untoward behaviour. They have to distinguish themselves and be role models in advocating for the enactment of laws that protect against child marriages. As long as young girls are denied their childhood, they will always have limited opportunities for education and employment ÔÇô two.
The African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa encourages governments across the continent to set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years. Child marriage┬áis a human rights violation. This is an unkind practice which has long-term and overwhelming effects on these girls whose health is at risk and at worst leading to death due to child birth and other complications.