The human rights violation of child marriage is a persistent and growing problem, not just in Tanzania but throughout sub-Saharan Africa: Stated by UNICEF, as of February 2017 “across the globe, rates of child marriage are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 4 in 10 girls marry before age 18; about one in eight were married or in union before age 15” while “globally, about one in seven adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) are currently married or in union. West and Central Africa has the highest proportion of married adolescents (27 per cent), followed by Eastern and Southern Africa (21 per cent) and the Middle East and North Africa (14 per cent).”
In their report on child marriage UNICEF highlights the extent to which the trend must be reversed, beyond its current pace of decline in sub-Saharan Africa: “even a doubling of the rate of reduction would not be enough to reduce the number of child brides.” If the current rate of decline persists the number of child brides in Africa alone will go from 125million today, to 215million by 2050.
Unsurprisingly it is the poorest in society that are most vulnerable to the practice: “Girls in rural areas are twice as likely to become child brides as girls from urban areas. Similarly, girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to marry before age 18 as girls from the richest households”.
Work carried out by USAID reveals much about the social norms in Tanzania that surround marriage, and the huge disadvantages girls and young women suffer as a consequence. Focus groups confirmed that girls marry at younger ages than boys- a significant proportion of these marriages are under duress and to much older men. The focus groups also revealed girls are considered mature enough for marriage once they begin menstruating, while boys are not considered marriageable, until they can financially provide for a family. Indeed,boys are not legally allowed to wed until they are 18. The focus group participants, both male and female, stated that girls have less power to decide when and who they marry than do boys.
This illustrates the huge gender inequality, and the injustice of a lack of rights for young girls and women in Tanzania. The Tanzanian government recognizes that current societal norms perpetuate the perception men are socially and economically dominant, and that women and children do not have rights of their own. Such perceptions allow for young girls to be perceived as property to be sold off for a dowry or bride price, to then be forced into marriages, motherhood and domestic servitude, with no hope of completing their education, nor achieve the autonomy to make choices about their bodies and lives that they deserve. The Tanzanian government is taking ambitious steps to tackle the many factors that feed into this violation of human rights, as part of their efforts to combat violence against women and children, but the task is huge.
The House of Blue Hope charity is looking to do its part in accelerating the speed of decline in child marriages in Tanzania by committing to providing vulnerable girls with a safe environment to live, a comprehensive education, and be empowered by knowing their human rights. By providing the safety net of care and education, the charity looks to directly impact the lives of these vulnerable girls, as well as the community in which they are growing up. By gaining a full education, and having the choice of if, when, and to whom they marry, these vulnerable girls can make a lasting impact on a community where such empowerment is more than a rarity.
In order for the charity to help prevent child marriage, we need your support. Can you help us by making a donation? If so, visit our 10th year Anniversary Razoo page
Thank you for giving what you can to keep these girls safe from child marriage, adolescent motherhood, and free to complete their education.