Poverty Impacts on Efforts to End Child Marriage, say Parliamentarians — Global Issues

Ricksani Alice, 19, was married at a young age but has now returned to school in hopes of completing her studies thanks to a Spotlight Initiative talk with UNFPA Gender Program Officer Beatrice Kumwenda at Tilimbike Safe Community Space in Chiludzi village, Dowa, Malawi on November 2, 2020. Source: UNFPA ESARO
Ricksani Alice, 19, was married at a young age but has now returned to school in hopes of completing her studies thanks to a Spotlight Initiative talk with UNFPA Gender Program Officer Beatrice Kumwenda at Tilimbike Safe Community Space in Chiludzi village, Dowa, Malawi on November 2, 2020. Source: UNFPA ESARO
  • by Cecilia Russell (johannesburg)
  • Associated Press Service

The webinar, supported by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the Japan Trust, heard about progressive legislation banning marriage for youth under 18, and in a school case, age 21, is not enough to stop this activity.

Dr. Kiyoko Ikegami, APDA Executive Director and Secretary General, noted in his opening remarks that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted child marriage prevention programs and increased poverty and discontent equality, which is a driving force for child marriage.

Chinwe Ogbonna, UNFPA ESARO ai Regional Director, said that although significant achievements have been made since the 1994 ICPD conference in Egypt, work has yet to be done.

She encouraged MPs to commit to actions they agreed to at a regional meeting in Addis Ababa in June, including “intensifying evidence-based advocacy”. In Africa, teenage pregnancy rates and HIV infection rates are high, she said. Gender-based violence is on the rise, female homicide and pernicious practices of child marriage, and female genital mutilation continue.

The webinar heard from members of parliament in different countries across the African continent.

Fredrick Outa, from Kenya, FPA Vice President, told delegates that although Kenya has made ambitious commitments, FGM is an area of ​​concern. Kenya is committed to strengthening coordination within legal and policy frameworks, communication and advocacy, integration and support, as well as cross-border cooperation to eliminate FGM.

Kenya aims to eradicate GBV, children and forced marriage by “addressing cultural and social norms in order to propagate this practice while supporting affected women and girls”.

An MP from Zambia, Princess Kasune, said it was worrisome that the 2018 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) indicated that 29% of women aged 20-24 reported being married before 18 years old. including working with traditional authorities and civil society to combat child marriage.

“The leaders and the leaders have made commitments in the fight against child marriage…. Traditional rulers are themselves champions in the fight against child marriage,” Kasune said.

She said the practice continues even though the Marriage Act sets 21 as the minimum age to get married.

However, customary laws are different and need to be unified in the law.

Another important campaign against early marriage is to send children to school. Although the government already employs 30,000 teachers in rural areas, more is needed.

“Keeping children in school is an important factor in reducing the rate of child marriage,” says Kasune.

Muwuma Milton, Ugandan MP, agrees that culture plays a role in eliminating harmful practices such as child marriage. The country is taking a multifaceted approach to eliminating this – including feeding programs at school, providing hygiene packages for girls and encouraging young mothers to return to school later. at birth.

“One challenge is that this country has an unmet need for family planning services, at 30 percent, and has a culture that believes that once a girl reaches menopause, they’re old enough to get married,” Milton said.

Matthew Ngwale, an MP from Malawi, noted that his country adheres to the South African Development Community (SADC) protocol condemning the marriage of people under the age of 18. The Malawi Constitution, Marriage, Divorce, Family Relations Act (2015), and Child Care Justice and Protection Act all reinforce this policy.

But, Ngwale said, despite “advancing legislation, Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, where about 42 percent of girls are married before age 18 and 9% under 15. About 7. % of boys get married before the age of 18”

He also noted that child marriage is higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Rural girls are 1.6 times more likely to get married early than urban girls.

Poverty is an obvious cause, with women in the mostly ‘poor’ south marrying at a slightly lower age than women in the ‘richer’ central and northern regions.

“In Malawi, children from poorer families are twice as likely to get married early than children from wealthier families,” Ngwale said. 60% in urban areas compared to 18% in urban areas.

According to Ngwale, traditional birth customs, performed as part of the birthing ritual when girls reach puberty, encourage early sexual activity, and the rate of child marriage is higher in the matriarchal group. subgroup.

“Due to food insecurity, child marriage often becomes a more likely coping mechanism as families seek to reduce the burden of supporting their families,” he said.

Climate challenges, such as droughts and floods, are becoming more frequent and catastrophic.

Child marriage affects lower secondary school completion rates. In Malawi, only 45% of girls stay in school after grade 8.

“Most girls who drop out of school due to early marriage have few opportunities to earn a living, so they are vulnerable to GBV. Child marriage reduces women’s expected earnings in adulthood by 1.4% to 15.6%,” he said.

However, the government of Malawi has created an enabling environment for civil society organizations to work with the government to end child marriage – including the official Girls Not Brides National Partnership.

Pamela Majodina, MP for the Republic of South Africa, told the webinar that the country was committed to the goals of ICPD25. It passed laws, including the Domestic Violence Act, the Children’s Act, the Sexual Offenses Act and the Child Justice Act, which state that having sex with a child under the age of 16 – any giving consent is a criminal offence.

Goodlucky Kwaramba, the Zimbabwean MP, said her country is committed to reducing the teenage pregnancy rate from 21.6% to 12% by 2030 and providing comprehensive Family Planning services by year 2030.

An MP from Eswatini, Sylvia Mthethwa, said her country, with 73% of its population under the age of 35 and youth unemployment at 47%, was committed to ensuring that youth were at the top. While the senators were mobilizing financial resources, the National Youth Policy and National Youth Action Plan were developed.

Meanwhile, in Tanzania, some success has been noted Dr Thea Ntara, MP of Tanzania, said rural areas are fully supported in the implementation of free ARV drugs and reproductive health services/ Youth-friendly sex is available in more than 63% of all health facilities. since 2017.

Note: The webinar series is based on the recommendation of the meeting of the African and Asian Parliamentarians to Monitor the ICPD25 Commitment to be held in June 2022 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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