Child marriage still rife in Mozambique

Albino Francisco, a National Coalition to End Child Marriage in Mozambique representative told delegates at a psychosocial forum on Thursday, “… 56 323 of [them] were married before they reached 15 years of age.”

He was speaking at the three-day long forum held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, hosted by the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (Repssi). The network hosts the forum bi-annually to promote awareness among governments, civil society, academia and media about the need for psychosocial support for children.

Francisco said these statistics are from an analysis of the latest health surveys (in 2011), census projections and governmental administrative data. The statistics translate to 48.2% of the women in this age group getting married before they turned 18 and 14.3% of them getting married before they turned 15. “In Mozambique, child marriage is illegal before the age of 18, although the law allows for exceptions up to 16 years of age where there is consent from the child’s parents,” he said.

Teen pregnancy was a natural association of child marriage and the statistics for this were equally shocking. “In total, more than 439.453 women aged 20-24 had their first child before their 18th birthday, 85.257 of which concerned mothers who were aged less than 15 at the birth of their first child,” he said.

He said “religious and regional” factors contributed to the ongoing practice and there was a much higher rate of child marriage in central and northern regions than in southern regions. Interestingly, he said, “girls living in female-headed households have a significantly lower probability of getting married before 18 than girls living in male-headed households”.  “Similarly, the probability of entering into child marriage decreases unambiguously with the age of the head of household.”


Some of the effects of child marriage were a “significantly lower likelihood of finishing primary school and starting secondary school” and “the children of adolescent mothers are significantly more malnourished than children of mothers in other age groups at the national level”.

Neighbouring country, Tanzania, has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.

Co-ordinator for the Agape Aids control programme, Deozawadi Marandu, told delegates that on average, “almost two out of five girls will be married before their 18th birthday”. The programme was established in 2006 and operates in the country’s Shinyanga region and its founders entered an agreement with the Firelight Foundation this year to implement a Stop Child Marriages and Early Pregnancies Project.

He said the causes of child marriages in the region include “the prevalence of harmful norms that make the community to view girls as source of income”. 

In some communities “child marriage is preferred as it is believed that when a girl conceives while at home, she will remove the honor of the family and reduces bride wealth,” he said. The programme aimed to educate and sensitise communities about child rights and the harmful effects of child marriages through “public video sessions; community and victims change agent groups, and school clubs”. 

They attempted family reconciliation and re-unification and gave victims legal representation. They also advocated for changing the Tanzanian Marriage Act of 1971 “which says children are allowed to be married at 14”, he said.

As a result of their efforts, more than 750 vulnerable girls have been rescued from child marriages and reintegrated into formal education, he said. Others have been supported in accessing vocational studies to pursue jobs such as tailoring, welding and electrical installation. Sixty girls have received business training and been given start up grants to initiate small businesses.”

“To effectively address the problem of child marriages, there is a need to have a holistic approach that looks at policy changes, addresses community attitudes, strengthens households economically and also empowers girls,” he said. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Nigeria’s poisonous patriarchy

Many in Nigeria believe that familial and even societal honor depends on women’s complicity, purity, and silence

‘My family had no business selling me off for R4’

Think child marriages only happen in far off countries? Think again.

Graça Machel stands up for girls’ education at Hong Kong summit

The former Mozambican education minister delivered a searing message for girls’ rights

Ukuthwala: The sex trafficking scandal devastating rural South Africa

In its traditional form, ukuthwala is a collusive strategy used by willing lovers to secure marriage negotiations. But the practice has mutated.

Nigeria’s children tied up in a marriage knot

Poverty, traditions and no education means laws will do little to end the practice of child brides.

Child brides bear the damage but it also harms families, communities and nations

Changing social norms will help end the practice that traps and endangers women and their daughters and preserves intergenerational poverty.
Advertising

New education policy on gender violence released

Universities and other higher education institutions have to develop ways of preventing or dealing with rape and other damaging behaviour

Cambridge Food Jozini: Pandemic or not, the price-gouging continues

The Competition Commission has fined Cambridge Food Jozini for hiking the price of its maize meal during April

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday