Youth are a powerful force in addressing child marriage

Youth pic2

According to the global data, one in three girls in developing countries is married before age 18, while one in five girls is married before age 15.

Thursday May 19 2022

Youth who constitute more than a half of Tanzania’s population are dynamics for positive social, economic and political changes.

In that case, CDF mobilized several youth found for its programs to re-engage them in strategic actions for ending the child marriage.

As part of countermeasure, CDF rolled out Accelerating Progress to the End Child Marriage project in collaboration with Msichana Empowerment Kuria based in Kenya, both under the support of Girls Not Brides, a global partnership to end child marriage and People’s Postcode Lottery.

Taking an “ecosystem approach”, the project engages young people, media, communities and religious leaders, schools, families and Government Officials at subnational level who come together to share challenges and successes.

This approach aims to bring together all the relevant actors working to end child marriage, so we are aligned with each other, and each actor intensifies and accelerates their efforts towards a joint goal.

According to the global data, one in three girls in developing countries is married before age 18, while one in five girls is married before age 15.

Youth activists

Youth activists in Tarime, Tanzania hold a community sensitization walk against child marriage in their community.

If current trends on child marriage continue, 150 million more girls will be married during their childhood before 2030.

Researchers on the other hand warn that ending child marriage could add more financial impact to the global economy, curb population growth and transform the lives of millions of young women worldwide by 2030.

The Girls Not Brides asserted that the findings do not seem to only impact the lives of the 15 million girls married every year, but also has a major negative impact on the economic development of the countries in which these girls live.

Child marriage is common in Tanzania. Figures from 2016 TDHS show that 36 percent of girls aging between 20 and 24 years were married before turning 18. The child marriage prevalence remains high in some regions example Shinyanga, Tabora and Mara with 59, 58 and 55 percent respectively.

These above statistics justify why the accelerator project had to be conducted in Tarime District, Mara region, a home to the coexistence of FGM and other many forms of gender-based violence.

CDF’s Program Officer, Ms. Euphomia Edward unfolds that CDF deepened youth understanding on advocacy, youth leadership and activism, digital storytelling and community mobilization on ending child marriage and helped them impact lives of vulnerable communities by greater degree, taking cases of Michael Kirassa and Scholastica Philip.

Going a little deeper on the program, Kirasa as one of the youth activists who engaged with CDF as a religious leader and member of the Community Youth Working Group (CYWG), increased understanding on the devastating impacts of child marriage which has made him an active ambassador of ending child marriage.

“From the knowledge, I gained through CDF, I and my fellow members of CYWG have been raising awareness in our communities reaching out to youth, adults and in school students. We are glad our message has been received well,” said Michael.

Based in Mwema ward, Tarime District, he and Scholastica salvaged 11 children, including a 14-year-old girl child from being married off and other 10 girls who were at risk of undergoing FGM in their villages.

“From the knowledge I gained through CDF, I and my fellow members of CYWG have been raising awareness in our communities reaching out to youth, adults and in school students. We are glad our message has been received well,” said Kirassa.

You might have heard well stories of Kirasa and Scolastica but the William’s would change your thinking forever. He is a living proof of the impacts of child marriage as he used his own horrifying experience to bring about change he would wish to see.

“I got married eight years ago, I was 17 and my wife was 16. I thought I was mature enough to handle family responsibilities,” he said. However, as for many child couples, things for William didn’t turn up the way he expected.

“Life became harder than before. We ended up quarreling and I was beating her so often,” said William.

William divorced Bertha for another spouse, younger than his first wife, and found himself falling into the worse affair than he expected.

He went back to Bertha for a reunion and found her already recruited to CDF’s young women empowerment program and he was happy for her with that milestone. As for Bertha, she is grateful for not missing a chance of this crucial knowledge on child marriage.

Esther Chacha

Ms. Esther Chacha, member of CYWG facilitates a community dialogue in Manga ward, Tarime.

CDF feedback

Responding to the question of why CDF recruited youth to tackle child marriage, Ms. Euphomia said that youth are approachable, flexible, innovative and can properly stick insights into their vulnerable peers’ minds.

“Youth groups are also dynamic; they can go places for outreach projects and what more importantly is that such groups complement one another in the efforts to bring about social changes,” added the Pro-gram Manager.

Youth Activist Trainer of Trainers (TOT), Ms. Alice Mtuga notified that these youth activists aspire to see the designated endeavor extending its coverage and impact to more remote and marginalized communities.

“We heard the youth activists a couple of times from areas they are working that their aspiration is to explore extension of the project and its impact in other areas of Tarime and beyond,” added Ms. Alice who also ascribed the donor’s budget to the limited project scope.

She insisted that these youth activists extracted past programs’ experience as their motivation to execute recent initiatives to a full tilt.

Ms. Alice sees a major milestone reached by those young advocates is their confidence and approaches to do advocacy amidst social backlash and antipathy com-pared to the beginning of the project.

“We trained them on how to unpack a harmful set of beliefs from traditional leaders replacing with appropriate awareness on child marriage impacts using available spaces in their communities; example church groups, football pitches and village meetings etc.

”She is even proud of the feedback provided by survivors who justified their satisfaction based on how these youth capacitated them with awareness of child marriage repercussions and reporting claims.

Despite notable milestone on tackling child marriage at community level, the legal framework in the country remains a challenge.

On 2016, Rebecca Gyumi filed a case challenging the discriminatory sections of the Law of Marriage Act (LMA), 1971 (Case of Rebecca Gyumi Vs the Attorney General, Miscellanies Civil Cause No. 5 of 2016).

In its landmark ruling, the high court declared sections 13 and 17 of the LMA, 1971 unconstitutional and directed the government to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 years within a year.

The Marriage Act of 1971 remains a puzzle among many stakeholders across the country, according to Ms. Euphomia.

She says that there has been unpromising progress by the Government to amend the law despite the High Court decision being extremely positive.

CDF plan to continue harnessing the power of collaboration to drive forward the movement to end child marriage.

The organization is a secretariat and works collaboratively with more than 70 Civil Society Organizations that forms the Tanzania Ending Child Marriage Network (TECMN), a national coalition on ending child marriage.