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When a cow is worth more than a daughter.

Let's give them a chance to fight.

EARLY CHILD MARRIAGE IN AFRICA: CAUSES AND EFFECT

It is not okay with us for a cow to be worth more than a daughter for parents to trade their daughter for two or three cows. It’s not okay with us that an 11-year-old girl can be sold to a 55-year-old man in the name of marriage. It’s not okay that a 12-year-old girl is forced to sell herself in a brothel to earn money to survive. Stories like this that we hear each week are not inevitable. We can do something about it.

What are the causes of early child marriage?

  • Tradition and religion

    • Primitive beliefs and culture like the Trokosi System; Trokosi is a traditional system in West Africa where virgin girls, some as young as six years old, are sent into Troxovi shrines (shrines for gods) as slaves to serves as wives of gods in order to make amends for wrongs committed by a male member of the virgin girl's family. She is to serve at the discretion of the high priest. She is raped, has unwanted children, and is abused on a daily basis.

  • Poverty 

    • Poverty plays a central role in perpetuating child marriage. Parents want to ensure the financial security of their daughters; However, daughters are considered an economic burden. Girls are expensive to feed, dress, and raise, and girls will eventually leave the house. The only way a family can get back their investment in a daughter is to get her married in exchange for a dowry.

  • Bride price (dowry)

    • A dowry is a transfer of gifts (e.g. Cattle) or money when a daughter gets married. We believe that dowry is putting a price tag on the girls, that girls can be anything, not just to exchange cattle and money.

  • Girl against cattle worth

    • Educated girls are not good for the household, so the bride price is low (the number of cattle in exchange for the bride price). For this reason, parents intend to marry their daughters as early as possible.

    • It is believed that raising and educating a girl is expensive. They will eventually leave the house while the livestock received in exchange (dowry) gives birth to more calves.

  • Married as a Caregiver

    • It is believed that if a girl marries early, she can easily adapt to her new family.

    • Young girls are forced to marry an older, sick, or handicapped man as wife number 4 or 5 with an age difference between 40 and 60 years in order to make them his caregiver. If the old man dies, what will become of her and her children?

What are the health effects of early child marriage?

  • The mortality rate is very high for both the mother and her infant. Twice likely to die during pregnancy.

  • Domestic violence / abuse

  • Increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases

  • Cervical cancer

  • Obstetric fistulas

  • Suicide rate so high

  • Children Bearing Children & Children Delivering Children

  • Effects on offspring and premature birth

  • Sexual assault; An example of this occurred in Sudan, A 13-year-old girl married a man twice her age. The girl died four days later from internal bleeding likely due to sexual activity.

 

We are pushing for government reforms and the implementation of those reforms.

  • Gender equality.

  • Equal pay for equal work; So a girl can also be seen as a breadwinner in a family.

  • Abolition of the bride price; We believe that dowry is putting a price tag on the girls.

  • Back-to-school programs for post-marriage and post-teen pregnancy

  • Money management programs to help them become independent.

  • Create an open channel for easy reporting of early marriages, domestic violence, and child abuse.

 

EDUCATION CHANGES EVERYTHING

What would your life be like with only five years of schooling? For many girls around the world, this is the most education they can expect and they are the lucky ones. Across Africa, 28 million girls between the ages of about 6 and 15 are not in school and many will never even set foot in a classroom.

 

March 8 is International Women’s Day, an occasion to celebrate the tremendous progress achieved in securing access to basic education for girls in the poorest countries.  But for us, it is also a stark reminder of the millions of girls who are being left behind.

 

We live in a world where violent extremists are bent on destroying the lives of schoolgirls, their families, and communities. And beyond the horror, we see the daily grind of poverty forcing girls to sacrifice their right to education and hope for a better life.   

 

We know there is a multiplier effect on educating girls. More educated women tend to be healthier, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better healthcare and education to their own children, all of which can lift households out of poverty.

 

BREAKING DOWN THE BARRIERS IS A JOINT EFFORT

Our respective organizations are committed to getting all children in school and learning and much progress has been made over the past 4 years, especially on attainment. Examples include Uganda’s free universal secondary education policy (the first in sub-Saharan Africa) and Ghana’s capitation grants. However, at a global level, while the share of children out of primary school has fallen from 15% to 9% since 2000.

 

No single organization can break down the complex barriers facing girls, especially in Africa. As part of our collective effort, we are supporting the work of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) to produce the data needed to make a difference in the lives of girls across the continent. Together, we are driving a data revolution in education to ensure that countries collect and use more relevant data.

 

LEARNING CONDITIONS NEED TO IMPROVE

For those children who enroll in school, poor classroom conditions can interfere with learning. On average, three pupils share a single mathematics textbook across the region. Only 10% of schools have access to electricity, and slightly less than half have access to drinking water. In half of the African countries with data, there are more than 50 pupils per class.

 

We know that schools without toilets, or with shared toilets, pose a health and safety risk for girls as well as present a significant cultural barrier that keeps girls away from such schools.

 

MORE QUALIFIED TEACHERS NEEDED

But perhaps most striking, the data shows that the dire shortage of teachers may get even worse as many African countries struggle to keep up with the rising demand for education from a growing school-age population. Today, the region needs to create 2.3 million new teaching positions and fill 3.9 million vacant posts in order to accommodate a maximum of 40 pupils in each classroom.

 

But it is not enough to just hire more teachers. Africa needs more qualified teachers who get support and training to improve their teaching. There is also a need for more female teachers who can be positive role models for girls.

 

LET’S MAKE SURE GIRLS GET THE FUTURE THEY DESERVE

It is not difficult to predict what the future holds for girls who never go to school. They will join the ranks of the 77 million young women between the ages of 15 and 24 who are unable to read or write a single sentence, let alone decipher a medical prescription or help their children with homework. Young women make up two-thirds of the global illiterate population. About 29 million live in sub-Saharan Africa and they face a life in poverty.  Hence, it is crucial to ensure that girls get a basic education.

 

HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Many girls have gone through our programs and it continues to grow. The number of enrollments has increased dramatically as we encourage economically disadvantaged parents to send their children back to school.
 

However, the increase in enrollments brought some challenges, such as inadequate classrooms, furniture, textbooks, teaching, and learning materials.

 

As well as

  • Paying school fees and textbooks

  • Computers for schools

  • Sanitary protection

 

Your gift helps beyond the classroom, supporting young graduates with the training and resources they need to become economically independent leaders in their communities. Over 90% of every money we spend goes to our AIS-Initiatives Save a Child project.

© Photo by Pierre Holtz