How proponents of child marriage frustrate campaigners

STAKEHOLDERS of the five year World Vision Tanzania campaign to stop child marriages were stunned, recently when a Village Chairman in Mkinga District, Juma Mwarukuni narrated a strange story that showed how negative attitudes over education were taking route in the district.

In what he claimed to be the result of persistent parent permissiveness, perverted customs and traditions and various challenges facing girls in their studies.

Some girls are subconsciously now looking at education as a lost cause and accepting marriages as the best option. Mwarukuni told a spellbound audience that included top officials of the District Commissioner’s Office, the District Council, Religious and Community leaders that she heard a girl blaming herself for passing the standard seven examinations and said that the girl wished that a man appears to marry her instead.

“I was guarding bricks at a building site. I couldn’t believe my ears but I believe this can be a result of a similar attitude among parents over such marriages,” he said.

He stressed that there is an urgent need for concerted efforts to wipe out such attitude, commending World Vision Tanzania for taking the initiative which was showing some results.

Almost all participants of the meeting passed on the blame on the shoulders of parents who continued to practice outmoded and perverted customs and traditions that downgraded the status of the girl child in the mostly coastal societies of Mkinga District.

The meeting that was reviewing a plan of action that was has blamed parents, divorces and night dance vigils (vigodoro) for persistence of school children marriages and pregnancies which they described as embedding the poverty cycle in the district.

Participants overwhelmingly agreed that parents had an important role to play in actions that can wipe out the scourge of child marriages and school pregnancies in the district.

The District Administrative Secretary, Erick Farahani, who chaired the meeting on behalf of the District Commissioner, said that all stakeholders were in agreement that the situation was still bad despite some advances educating parents via various platforms including community meetings and faith-based congregations made after the first meeting that set plan of action.

Participants said parents were avoiding their responsibilities of caring for girl children by denying them such important inputs as money for fares to and from school and lunch. Making them vulnerable to advances by unscrupulous and amorous men, including bodabodas.

He said that the participants were unanimous that parents must change their mindsets towards girls and girls’ education and increase their vigilance by being more responsible protect girls from child marriages.

“Everybody in his or her platform must raise their voices against child marriages and pregnancies to make the district safe for the girl child,” Farahani said.

Statistics released by the meeting by the District Social Welfare Officer, Sosthenes Mtena showed the school pregnancies reported at his office were 9 in 2017.

Falling to only one in the following year but in this year seven have already been recorded by the end of May. Mtena said although there were no reported child marriages, in reality, the situation was different because of the tradition of parents preferring to settle matters at home.

He said that research has revealed that parents or guardians did not perform their duties properly while there was a chronic problem of secondary school girl students living in rented houses on their own.

The District Health Officer, Daniel Kijazi said that according to statistics’ in his office there were eight school pregnancy cases in 2018 while there are four by May this year.

Speaking on the project, the Project Coordinator, Evodia Chija said there is a lot of improvement since the project started. She said that the project is part of World Vision’s contribution to making a significant impact on the well-being of children.

Ms Chija said the World Vision was implementing a five year global campaign known as ‘It takes the work to end Violence Against Children’ ending violence against children, in all its forms, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The focus of World Vision’s campaign in Tanzania is to End Child Marriage,” she said, adding that child marriages were repulsive, sickening, horrible, cruel form of violence against children–especially the girl child.

In Tanzania, World Vision’s contribution to this global campaign is driven by successful work well underway in 13 Regions and 36 Districts where it operates.

Speaking on the situation of Child Marriage, she said that across the globe, rates of child marriage are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 4 in 10 girls marry before age 18; about one in eight were married or in union before age 15.

In Tanzania, the data on Child Marriage among other types of violence is worrying.

Child marriage in Tanzania stands at 39 per cent. Related data indicate that overall, 27percent of adolescent women age 15-19 are already mothers or are pregnant with their first child.

While child marriage is common in Tanzania, prevalence is highest in Shinyanga (59 percent), followed by Tabora (58 percent), Mara (55 percent), Dodoma (51 percent), Lindi (48 percent), Mbeya (45 percent), Morogoro (42 percent), Singida (42 percent), Rukwa (40 percent), Ruvuma (39 percent), Mwanza (37 percent), Kagera (36 percent), Mtwara (35 percent), Manyara (34 percent), Pwani (33 percent), Tanga (29 percent), Arusha (27 percent), Kilimanjaro (27 percent), Kigoma (26 percent), Dar es Salaam (19 percent) and Iringa (8 percent).

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Author: GEORGE SEMBONY in Mkinga

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