Child marriages, the road to poverty and violence
At just concluded 2nd National Girl Summit, we were privileged to host a very successful and well attended concurrent Session on Leaving No Girl Behind, where we focused the discussions on strategies to adequately reach vulnerable and hard to reach girls and prevent them from teenage pregnancies and child marriages.
Moderated by our dynamic program Manager Winfred Apio the session provided an opportunity to girls, including those from the refugee settlements in Kyaka ii to share their experiences. Ms. Faridah Luanda is a #UYAHF Change Champion and a Congolese refugee who has been living in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement for over three years now. She shared her very emotional story of how she lost her parents while still a child, was forced to get married at 13 had her first baby at the age of 15. Her husband passed away shortly and she started living with her aunt and uncle, it’s from this place that she experienced all forms of torture. Its during these hard days that she meant her biological brother who told her about Kyaka II settlement where he was staying. When the violence erupted she fled to Uganda as a refugee and settled in Kyaka II settlement.
But what a powerful young woman she has become, Faridah could not even let her pain and suffering deter her from her dream. Today she has become a great inspiration to her peers, she used her music talent to lobby start a local music studio where she now produces music in Kyegegwa town. She has been using her music to inspire other girls to say no to violence. As a key highlight to the session we all agreed that child marriage remains a long ignored problem that undermines the dignity of girls and exposes them to gender based violence, early and unwanted pregnancies, HIV infections, poverty, school dropouts among others consequences.
Child marriage robes girls of every opportunity to thrive. A human rights violation, child marriage denies girls their health, education and the choices of when and who to marry. Child marriage directly hinders progress of 8 of the 17 SDGs. But we can end child marriages. We have the power and the opportunities more than ever before to end this harmful cultural practice.Today 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. We must understand the complex drivers behind the practice in different contexts and adapt our interventions accordingly. We must work towards empowering girls, investing in safe spaces for girls and supporting young people to be agents of change. We must work closely with the local government to come up with by laws and ordinances that will help regulate and raise awareness to the members in the community about the risks of child marriage and that is punishable by law. We must mobilize families and communities and raise awareness on the harmful consequences of child marriage to change attitudes and reduce the acceptance among those who make the decision to marry off girls. Our community interventions must also target working with men and boys and engage religious and cultural leaders.
Additionally we must invest in social services including education to keep all girls in school and make the schools safe for them. Access to quality youth friendly services that offer comprehensive and non-judgmental SRHR services and information should also be made available and accessible for girls, including opportunities for social economic empowerment. Lastly we need to invest in child protection mechanisms including enacting and implementation of already existing laws, policies and regulations. These are essential in preventing child’s marriages.
Compiled by UYAHF comms teams, firstname.lastname@example.org