The Pan African Alliance took a step to launch a campaign to end Child marriages on 2 March 2023. Speaking at this function, the INERELA+ Acting Executive Director, Munya Mandipaza echoed that girls in our communities are seen and are not heard. We must listen to our children, respond, and support them. The issue of child marriage has taken a perspective where culture accepts child marriages which is a crime. Culture is being abused for justice an unacceptable social practice within families. We need to have a dynamic culture that affirms human rights and the position of children because child marriage is sexual exploitation. Child marriage can lead to life-threatening health consequences. These young girls are neither physically mature enough nor psychologically ready to become wives and mothers. They are girls, not brides.
Eastern and Southern Africa is amongst the regions with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world, with over 30 percent of women aged 20-24 years who were first married or in a union under the age of 18, whilst the global average stands at around 19 percent. The girls at greatest risk of child marriage are often those hardest to reach. They come from poor families, marginalized groups, or rural areas. They are also more likely to be out of school than their unmarried peers, robbed of the opportunity to thrive and fulfil their potential.
There is need to eliminate child marriages if Africa is to prosper. There is no tomorrow until we invest in today. To end child marriages, we must act now. Children need age-appropriate sexuality education. The issue of child marriages is violence against girls, it is a justice issue, and it is a developmental issue. It’s doable for us to end child marriages. Marriages need consent, what is taking place is not marriage but rape. Language should not sanitise evil, this is not marriage, it is rape.
INERELA+ puts a lot of effort to capacitate Religious and traditional leaders to address the issue of child marriage through working with parents, teachers, and young girls to prevent child marriages, raise awareness about the issue. Our Programme supports parents and families in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own future, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so, including sexual and reproductive health and social protection programmes. It also addresses the underlying conditions that sustain child marriage, advocating for laws and policies that protect girls’ rights while highlighting the importance of using robust data to inform such policies. Through youth clubs’ girls are empowered to break the silence and get informed about their reproductive health and rights.
For INERELA+ Religious Leaders the message is very clear.
Everyone is born in the image of GOD and the image of GOD does not include abuse.