In 2011, Kenya became the latest in a string of African countries to ban female genital mutilation, passing a law to make it illegal to practice FGM or to take someone abroad to be ‘cut’.
However, a recent expose has revealed the ancient act is still being undertaken under misguided beliefs.
Chariots of Mercy works with rescued girls enabling them to go back to school for empowerment.
CHILD MARRIAGE IN KENYA
Child marriage is a huge problem in Kenya; the practice is robbing the girl child off her rights, dignity and childhood. The problem truly is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Child brides can be found in almost every region in the world
WHY DOES CHILD MARRIAGE HAPPEN?
Child marriage is a traditional practice that in many places happens simply because it has happened for generations – and straying from tradition could mean exclusion from the community. But as Graça Machel, widow of Nelson Mandela, says, ‘Traditions are made by people – we can change them.’
In Africa’s communities where child marriage is practiced, girls are not valued as much as boys – they are seen as a burden. The challenge is to change parents’ attitudes and emphasize that girls who avoid early marriage and stay in school will likely be able to make a greater contribution to their family and their community in the long term.
Where poverty is acute, giving a daughter in marriage allows parents to reduce family expenses by ensuring they have one less person to feed, clothe and educate. In communities where a dowry or ‘bride price’ is paid, it is often welcome income for poor families; in those where the bride’s family pay the groom a dowry, they often have to pay less money if the bride is young and uneducated.
Many parents marry off their daughters young because they feel it is in her best interest, often to ensure her safety in areas where girls are at high risk of physical or sexual assault.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT?
Each year, many girls are married before the age of 18 thus, endangering their personal development and wellbeing. With more young people on our planet than ever before, child marriage is a human rights violation that we must end to achieve a fairer future for all.
Child brides are often disempowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety. Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child brides are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, becoming infected with HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence. With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty.
Nations also feel the impact: a system that undervalues the contribution of young women limits its own possibilities. In this way, child marriage drains countries of the innovation and potential that would enable them to thrive.
CHILD MARRIAGE FACTS
More than 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. That is the equivalent of 10% of the world’s population.
If there is no reduction in child marriage, an additional 1.2 billion underage girls will be married by 2050.
Some child brides are as young as eight or nine.
Most adolescent pregnancies (90%) take place within marriage.
Pregnancy and childbirth complications are among the leading causes of death in girls aged 15 to 19 in low- and middle-income countries.
COMPELLING REASONS TO ACT NOW
Globally, the rates of child marriage are slowly declining. Growing commitments to address the issue, such as the inclusion of target 5.3 to end child, early and forced marriage in the Sustainable Development Goals, are encouraging. However, there are urgent reasons to double our efforts.
IT VIOLATES HUMAN RIGHTS AND IS ILLEGAL
In many countries, child marriage is prohibited, but existing laws are often not enforced or provide exceptions for parental consent or traditional and customary laws. Child marriage reinforces gender inequality and violates human rights. Tolerating any injustice makes it easier for others to exist.
IT PERPETUATES POVERTY
Married girls often leave school and so can lack the skills to help lift their families out of poverty. Without addressing child marriage, the international community will fail to achieve its commitment in the Sustainable Development Goals to reduce global poverty.
THE LONGER WE WAIT, THE BIGGER THE PROBLEM WILL BE
Millions of girls and women already suffer the consequences of child marriage. If we do nothing, population growth means that, by 2050, the total number of women married as children may grow to 1.2 billion, with devastating consequences for girls, their families and their countries. Boys are also affected – 33 million men today were married before the age of 15 and 156 million before the age of 18.
PROGRESS IS POSSIBLE.
The complex mix of cultural and economic factors mean there is not a single, simple solution. But, through partnership, long-term programming and a willingness to learn from our successes and failures, we can end child marriage within a generation.
Chariots of Mercy would love to facilitate an end to child marriage. By connecting and amplifying the voice of civil society organizations across the community, we help instill the global pressure that makes ground-level change happen.
Informed by their experience of working with girls, families and their communities, Chariots of Mercy have come together to articulate what an effective response to child marriage entails. Together we develop evidence-based solutions – like our Theory of Change – to outline how we can end child marriage and enable girls to achieve their potential in all aspects of their lives.
CHILD MARRIAGE AND THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGS)
Child marriage directly hinders the achievement of at least 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Simply put, the international community will not fulfill its vision of more sustainable world for all unless it tackles child marriage.
GIRLS ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED BY CHILD MARRIAGE
While boys are sometimes subjected to early marriage, girls are disproportionately affected and form the vast majority of the victims of child marriage. A comparison of the proportion of young women aged 15-19 who were married in 2003 to young men aged 15-19 who were married in the same year found the ratio to be 72 to 1 in Kenya!
HOW CAN WE END CHILD MARRIAGE?
In recent years child marriage has gained increasing prominence on international and national development agendas. Today, we have a unique opportunity to act on this momentum and accelerate our efforts to help change the lives of girls and young women all over the world.
Ending child marriage requires work across all sectors and at all levels. It requires us to understand the complex drivers behind the practice in different contexts and adapt our interventions accordingly.
Chariots of Mercy has developed a theory of change to demonstrate the range of approaches needed to address child marriage, and crucially highlight that everyone has a role to play. The Theory of Change stresses the importance of long-term, sustainable interventions that are coordinated, well-resourced and the result of shared learning.
Within the Theory of Change, four categories show where the majority of our efforts are aligned: empowering girls, mobilizing families and communities, providing services and establishing and implementing laws and policies. Ending child marriage requires work which is mutually reinforcing across these areas.
These four strategy areas are used to illustrate the types of effective interventions that are helping to prevent child marriage and support married girls all over the world.