Child Marriage in Africa

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Child marriage is a massive global issue that is incorporated in many cultures, religions, and lives throughout countries. Child marriage is a major problem in Africa. In Africa, girls are not valued as much as boys. Children are being forced into marriages leading to their human rights being violated. For instance their education and obligates them to work around the house, take care of the children and introduced them to domestic abuse. Organizations around the world are providing girls in this situation with proper education as well as support forcing the government to take responsibility and fix their mistakes. Child marriage is deep-seated in Africa’s culture. According to Girls Not Brides, fifty-five percent of girls marry before 18 in Mali, seventy-six percent in Niger and thirty-three percent in Senegal. In the Early Marriage in Africa article, it states that “more than half of the countries with the highest child marriage rates in the world are in West and Central Africa” (Kane). In another article, twenty to fifty percent of women are married by the age of 18 with the highest percentages in West Africa.

Additionally, girls who marry get married before eighteen years old are more likely to receive no education, live in rural areas and are more receptive to domestic abuse (Walker). In Africa, it is considered a tradition simply because they have been doing this for generations. The community starts to view a girl as a woman once she menstruates. Therefore marriage is the next step so she can fulfill her status as a woman in Africa (Kane). Africa has high poverty rates. Child marriage is predominately seen in areas of poverty (Child Marriage: A Silent Health and Human Rights Issue). In Africa, families marry their daughters young to reduce expenses. This is because it is one less mouth to feed, educate and clothe (Walker). When girls marry young they are less likely to receive an education. Without an education, they will be less able to earn a living for themselves and their families. Child brides also don’t have the opportunities to make money. This is because they do unpaid housework like cooking, cleaning, and caring for their husbands and children (Kane). According to Child Marriage: A Silent Health and Human Rights Issue, “poverty is a significant risk factor as marring girls off before the age of 18 is relieved of the responsibility of feeding, clothing and protecting the girl child in an uncertain and insecure society” (Walker). There are people in Africa selling and forcing a young daughter into marriage in order for them to survive.

Child marriage is often a social act that saves families reputation. Some parents consider getting married is their duty to the community and their family. If they fail to get married not only is their reputation altered so is the families. The girl will be known as a negligent in the community (Department of Justice). In Africa, girls are not allowed to do anything with a man until they are married or shame will be put on not only the girl bu her family as well (Kane). Child marriage has an impact on the family’s status in the community. Another major factor leading to child marriage is the lack of educational and occupational opportunities for young girls. In Africa today woman are often viewed as property, therefore, there is no reason to give them an education. Child marriage often means the end of a girls education. Girls education is being taken away in order for them to get married. Today education is something we definitely take for granted: “Over sixty percent of women with no education in Africa were married before eighteen.” Also, girls without a proper education are more likely to be married by eighteen years old compared to girls with an education. (Kane). Once the girl has a baby they do not return to school. One reason is that the parents find them a burden and do not feel they need school. Also, they have a new responsibility, a child, to take care of. In fact, some countries forbid pregnant girls or young mothers from coming back to school in the future. Education, according to ""Child marriage: a silent health and human rights issue."" by Nawal it can the most powerful tool for girls to avoid child marriage live to their potential.

The longer the girl stays in school they are less likely to get married before the age of eighteen years old and have children (Nawal). When girls in Africa are at school they are in a safe environment, with quality education with huge benefits. Educated girls develop the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions. For instance when and whom to marry when the time is right (Kane). In Africa, the male is the dominant partner in the marriage. The young girls are more likely to beaten by their husbands because they are so young and vulnerable. The age gap between the girl and the man increases her chance of being abused by her husband. According to Girls Not Brides “ Forty-four percent of girls aged fifteen to nineteen think a husband or a partner is justified in hitting or beating his wife or partner in certain circumstances”. In Africa, parents believe that marrying their children younger will prevent them from being abused, but that is not the case (Kane). Today society makes girls are being taught that what is happening is okay.

They think it is okay to be raped and beaten by their husbands. Evelyn who is 32 now, was married at 15 years old in Liberia. Evelyn after being married wanted to have two kids but her husband wanted and told her they were going to have a big family, 10 children. She then told him that since he is the man of the house they will go by his decisions even if that ’s not what she wanted. She experienced verbal and physical abuse from her husband: “at times he locked me up in the house and would go out for the whole day. He changed a bit after he beat me and I miscarried twice.” Young girls feel they need to stay and feel that things will get better or that the abuser will change. But that is rarely the case. If the girls didn’t want to do something the man because they thought they were superior force them: “Our men are still making the decisions. Most of the time when we refuse they can force us and it can be hard for us to report” (Kane). Child marriage can lead to many health and mental consequences. They had risks of isolation, depression, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancies. Once young girls were married they were often taken to their husband’s household to live where they would start their new role as the “wife”. The husbands home could be in a different town or village in Africa. This led to loneliness. Additionally, as new brides, one of their duties is to have children. As a result of all of these factors, the girls feel isolated and depressed. They sadly lose their childhood and don’t have the opportunity to play outside, make friends and receive an education. In Kenya, married girls are fifty percent more likely than unmarried girls to get HIV. While in Zambia the risk is fifty-nine percent higher. In Uganda, girls who are fifteen to nineteen years old are eight nine percent more likely to get HIV.

According to Child Marriage: A Silent Health and Human Rights Issue, their husbands infect the girls because the girls are trying to show they can reproduce leading them to have unprotected intercourse. Sadly, pregnant girls in malaria regions are more perceptive to infections. They also have a higher risk for anemia, pulmonary edema, and hypoglycemia when they are nineteen years old and under. Rates of HIV and malaria are the highest in Africa (Nawal). There are many organizations trying to end child marriage: Girls Not Brides is partnered with 1000 civil society organizations from over 95 countries with the goal to end child marriage and to enable girls to fulfill their potential. They bring child marriage to global attention by creating laws, policies as well as programs. Girls Not Brides was created in September 2011 by a group of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights. They want to bring attention to the harmful traditions that restrict girls back and to create a world where there is no child marriage. Girls Not Brides goal is to defend the rights of girls health, education and the opportunity to live life to the fullest. According to their website, “in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we believe that eighteen should be the minimum age for boys and girls to be married.” Girls Not Brides believes the best way to envoke change is with community engagement, work together and strengthen efforts to end child marriage. They aim to raise awareness of the harmful impact of child marriage and inform the community about it. As well as making programs to teach society about how they can work to end child marriage.

Lastly, to mobilize and use social media to spread awareness. They really encourage the community to be a part of this organization because this problem can not be fixed alone. Their goal is to abolish child marriage with the help of the community (Kane). “Young African activists share powerful stories on child marriage first-ever UNICEF Twitter takeover.” Young empowering woman from Africa is telling their stories advocating for young girls all over the world. Mariam Agrei Musa, Illwad Elman, Halina Laoual Bachir are all activists spreading awareness about child marriages. They do this by sharing their stories to the world through social media. They used Twitter to get their stories out there and contribute to the campaign to end child marriage in Africa. UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child. They work with 190 countries and territories to take action to benefit all children and to end child marriage. These organizations have been successful in spreading awareness about child marriage. It is known around the world and people are being taught how they can help and make a difference. There are programs in place and policies being followed because of these activists and organizations. The main factor of their success is the use of social media, which is helpful in spreading news faster and more efficiently. All of these organizations are transforming how people think and encouraging people around the world to help. I think that child marriage should not be allowed because it is taking away the girls childhood.

Especially when they don’t have consent it is taking away their rights. After doing research on this topic I knew that something had to be done to make this better for all the girls out there that are being put in this traumatic situation. Child marriage is a known problem in Africa around the world. In my opinion, I think there are so many things that we can be doing here in California to spread awareness and make a difference in children's lives. For instance, there are many known charities found the the website Girls Not Brides that people can donate to. Additionally, I think that by us making programs we can do at schools and events that empower girls. These programs can help them realize that what is happening to them and to others is not okay and show them that they have control of their lives. We can not only inspire them to stand up for what is right but we can help them understand their own rights. By doing this it would lead to girls being aware of their rights and to girls having to develop unity through the programs. I also think that we can work with people in peer groups or even group phone calls with kids and change people’s opinions on child marriage, teach them about it and inspire them to change what is going on around the world.

This will increase communities knowledge about child marriage. Today in 2019 social media is a huge platform used to spread information. By the community making pages and posts with information about child marriage. It can lead to people sharing possible things we could do to end child marriage. In my opinion, social media would have a huge impact on the world and show people how awful some of these girls lives are. Lastly, I think that just by teaching people about it and making people aware of this issue will change everything. This is because it will encourage people to make a difference and benefit the children who are going through this. If we educate our community and rally as many people as we can, we can help raise awareness and help lead to a possible solution to end child marriage.

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Child Marriage in Africa. (2020, Mar 31). Retrieved July 14, 2024 , from

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