The number of young girls being married off is disguised in certain instances because some parents won’t talk about it
By Simon J. Mone
In all countries, child marriage ranks among the top-most dangerous deeds imposed on the girl child. But it gets more disturbing as we continue to read and watch news of such events in our world today.
Yet we know that we must resist temptations to marry off our young kids. Considering gender biases in societies, child marriage is also prominent, together with others like; limiting the girl child from access to education and from ownership of property.
Young girls (below 18) are forced to start up their own homes. Even though this is considered illegal by law; it is seen as normal at the expense of the young girls who clearly are not ready for motherhood yet. So upon becoming mothers, they effectively say goodbye to a promising future. And take up huge responsibilities from then onwards. Child marriage undermines girls' education.
Young mothers are vulnerable to domestic violence because they never get listened to by their much older husbands. And because they have to take care of families, they also get dragged into child labour, where they get exploited, and subjected to a myriad of health risks. It is a huge responsibility at their age. The children will see and try to do exactly what their young parents do. So where do we start to address this problem?
First, we need to get accurate information. The number of young girls being married off is disguised in certain instances because some parents won't talk about it. For people in displaced settlement, the number could even be higher than we think; because they are exposed to all kinds of behaviour. Many young girls drop out of school, because of the desperation to jump at the chance to get husbands. And end up with family responsibility on their hands.
It brings us to this question of ‘what the suitable age for girls to be given away should be?' In my opinion, as long as a girl has attained a level of education that facilitates her easy decision making about the things they desire to have in order to be responsible.
As long as a girl can earn an income and does not have to rely on somebody for basic necessities, then it is a glorious opportunity to settle down. This could also be the time they have probably completed studies, and have got an occupation to support her livelihood. Against this background, we have a look at a few of the drivers of child marriage that we think can be controlled in order to stop child marriage. First is geographical location.
Whereas young girls in the rural areas are more likely to be lured into marriage, their counterparts in the urban locations are less likely to do the same. This is because in the rural areas, parents see it as a chance to make a windfall. So the money available they save for the boys' schooling at the expense of the girls. More attention should be directed at rural areas.
Secondly, some ethnic and cultural practices sacrifice girls' education in favour of the boys. This can be solved by counselling and sensitising parents on how a girl's future can be brighter than a boy's.
Third is education. It is generally agreed that the longer the girl child stays in school, the longer she will delay the time to get married. The opposite means she will be tempted to settle down early.
Fourth is information: Radio and television have made great strides towards empowering the girl child. Girls that have access to news and information are generally empowered with knowledge to delay marriage. It is the reverse in communities that have limited access to information.
Fifth is income. Lack of income causes poverty, and forces some parents to yield to temptation to give away their girls into marriage.
Act now on the drivers of child marriage.
Writer has an interest in humanitarian development