The National Strategic Framework for ending child marriage in Ghana was, yesterday, launched in Accra.
The Framework is designed to provide an integrated vision and a clear direction to all stakeholders to ensure a well-structured and well-guided collaboration between state and non-state institutions.
In an address, Madam Otiko Djaba, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, recalled that the national campaign to end child marriage in the country was officially launched in February 2016, with support from the United Nations International Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) as a response to the universal call to end child marriage, globally, by 2030.
Madam Djaba explained that the goal of the Framework, anchored within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, was to end child marriage, using a holistic approach to ensure youthful livelihood and socio-economic transformation by 2030.
She said the Framework would facilitate the enforcement of existing national laws and policies related to child marriage, including effective birth registration as well as building the capacity of law enforcement agencies to identify and sensitively deal with issues of child marriage.
The Minister noted that even though ending child marriage in Ghana was a complex situation, the collective efforts, commitment and responsibility of all Ghanaians would facilitate the implementation of the strategies identified in the framework.
In a statement, Susan Ngongi, UNICEF Representative in Ghana, stressed the need for all stakeholders to accelerate progress to stop the number of child brides from growing, through concerted efforts.
Ms Ngongi said one way of ending child marriage was to empower girls and boys by increasing their right to education.
She, therefore, pledged the support of UNICEF in the implementation of the Framework.
Published on All Africa on May 23, 2017.
By Naomi Mihara, Jessica Abrahams
Each year, about 15 million girls are married as minors around the world. Widely known as “child marriage,” campaigners say the practice puts girls at increased risk of violence and abuse, and impacts their health and education. Eliminating it is a target of Sustainable Development Goal 5.3.
But some activists argue that the term “child marriage” fails to adequately describe the issue, and that the development community should work to find a new term to help reframe our understanding of it.
The African Union’s Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda has long made the case for this, telling the United Nations General Assembly in 2014 that child marriage is “sexual abuse” and that “by calling it ‘marriage,’ we’re giving it legality and social and moral acceptance.”
In a conversation with Devex, Jacqui Hunt, Europe director of Equality Now, agreed that “the term ‘marriage’ is really very problematic.”
But others argue that the term benefits from widespread acceptance, which helps when mediating between different groups and working in varied contexts.
The debate is part of a trend within global development to question how our choice of language can frame our understanding of an issue, and the way that it’s perceived by communities — particularly when it comes to issues heavily rooted in social norms or public perception, such as the recent debate around the use of the terms “refugee” and “migrant.”
Lakshmi Sundaram, executive director of Girls Not Brides, told Devex that “child brides tend to be under intense pressure to have children often and early,” and that as young mothers they are more likely to suffer severe health consequences from pregnancy and childbirth. She added that child brides are typically pulled out of school early and are sometimes removed from their family networks.
The ability to give full, free and informed consent to marriage as a minor is also an issue. In recent times, some groups have started to frame child marriage under certain circumstances as a form of modern slavery.
While some activists argue that “child marriage” does not adequately capture the rights violations involved, they also acknowledge the difficulties in finding a new term.
Sundaram suggested that finding the right language might differ depending on the context of a discussion or communication.
Published on Devex's website on May 12, 2017.
By Elin Martínez
More than 600,000 children with disabilities are out of school in South Africa. In a country that has claimed to have achieved universal basic education, children with disabilities experience systemic barriers and discrimination on a daily basis. These children are not guaranteed a quality education on an equal basis with children without disabilities.
Unequal access is one of the most evident forms of discrimination. Children with disabilities continue to pay school fees and costs that children without disabilities do not pay, or are asked to pay for services so they can go to school. Many parents cannot afford to send children to school, so many stay at home. Others are turned down by schools that do not want to enroll children with disabilities.
Although the government has recently devoted more attention to inclusive education, it has a long way to go to implement its inclusive education policy. A strong, global reminder that South Africa must to do its utmost to ensure children with disabilities have a right to education would have ripple effects at home.
There’s an opportunity to do just that on May 10, when the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva reviews South Africa’s human rights record.
One of the most positive contributions UN member states could make for South Africa’s children would be to press the government on why children with disabilities have not been guaranteed free and compulsory education on an equal basis with children without disabilities. They could also ask the government for a specific timeline to adopt a national plan to make education free, in line with its international obligations, and also ask how it will enforce it so that all children can go to school on an equal basis.
Published on HRW's website on May 10, 2017.
By Ruth Butaumocho
Tendai Magwaza is an astute bright young teenage girl, who wants to become a journalist once she finishes school.
She has lived all her life in Madziva, in Zimbabwe's Mashonaland Central Province, but she yearns for a life in a big city, where she hopes to ply her trade, once she graduates from university.
However, her prayer is not to get married early, like her childhood friend and neighbour, Maidei, who at 16 is now a wife and a mother to two boys.
Sitting quietly in a corner at the Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University auditorium, during a public lecture on child marriages recently, Tendai beamed with pleasure, as she counted herself lucky for not being a statistic on the subject under discussion.
As she tried to concentrate on the ongoing debate, she could not help but gloss over and marvel at the eloquence of each speaker who took to the podium to engage on the discourse. "If only I can survive the scourge of child marriage, I will definitely be standing on the very same podium, wearing the same heels, a few years from now," she whispered to her friend, Ruth, who was engrossed in the debate.
Tendai might be lucky, but not for hundreds of other girls of her age, or even younger who are being married off young, in most parts of Zimbabwe, particularly in Mashonaland Central, where the practice is rife.
While there could be various reasons for the high prevalence of the problem in the region, poverty has been singled out as the major cause that has decimated the population of young girls in the province.
"Most of my friends, who got married, did so soon after Grade 7 after their parents failed to raise fees for them so that they could proceed to secondary school," suggested Tendai.
However African Goodwill Ambassador for ending child marriages, Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda said while poverty could be a contributor in this social ill, the problem was a result of sexual exploitation of hapless girls by irresponsible men.
Speaking during the ZEGU public lecture on child marriages organised by the university and a non-governmental organisation, Real Open Opportunities for Transformation Support, Roots, in Bindura last week, Ms Gumbonzvanda said it was important to demystify the myth and the linear argument that young girls were marrying early as an option out of poverty.
"Girls are sexually exploited, and it is not a poverty issue, but it is the criminal and exploitation of these hapless girls by people in position of power.
"By justifying that child marriages are as a result of poverty, we are justifying what is not true. If a family gets money for lobola and marrying her off to an older or richer guy, will that end poverty?"
Ms Gumbonzvanda said it was important for society to draw a line between a social vice and serious violation of human rights which were also criminal. "Sexual reproductive health related issues of young girls are matter of concern. When a young girl is married off, there is violation of multiple rights such that child marriages should not be defined as such, but should be deemed as criminal," she said.
She added that it was folly and mischievous to use tradition, religion and culture in justifying child marriages, when society should be discouraging the practice. "We have heard and listened to all the reasons given for the upsurge in child marriages, but communities should unite and bring perpetrators of this heinous act, to book.
Contributing to the debate, Roots executive director, Ms Beatrice Savadye said while poverty was touted as the biggest vice in child marriages, several subtle, but influential trends were also contributing to the problem, with pop culture being one of them. "Pop culture is slowly emerging as one of the contributors to child marriages. A lot of teenagers are now taking part in activities like pasa pasa, street sex and all night parties, without taking time to think about the consequences of early sexual debut.
She added that cultural practices such as chinamwari were also fuelling the problem of early child marriages, because girls ended up engaging in sexual exploits to practice what they were taught. "Of coursing poverty is also contributing, but there are other trends that are also worsening the problem and that would need to be looked at holistically," she said.
Ms Savadye called on adequate research to explore more on the subject to ensure that the results would be used to find lasting solutions to the problem. "Further research is needed on the subject so that policymakers and other stakeholders can offer prudent solutions to the problem, which has become a source of consternation across.
"Our girls deserve a better future. That future will only be possible, once we are able to identify where the problem is emanating from," she said.
According to the Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2014), Mashonaland Central tops the list of provinces with the highest number of cases of child marriages with 50 percent of the marriages involving minors.
The province is followed by Mashonaland West with 42 percent; Masvingo 39 percent; Mashonaland East 36 percent; Midlands 31 percent; Manicaland 30 percent; Matabeleland North 27 percent; Harare 19 percent and Matabeleland South 18 percent.
A number of reasons have been given for the high prevalence of child marriages in Mashonaland Central, with the economic profile of some of the districts cited as the major contributory factor to the problem.
In the case of Shamva district, it has a high number of resettlement areas such that school going children have to travel long distances to school, forcing several kids, particularly girls to drop out of school.
The same district is home to a lot of mining concerns-both formal and informal- whose economic activities have resulted in a lot of children dropping out of school to go and work.
Historical narratives also suggest that for long education was not considered as a priority in Shamva and its environs, with many school going children opting to work in mines and farms rather than go to school.
In Mbire district, which has got the highest prevalence of child marriages in the province, a lot of girls reportedly drop out of school in primary school and eventually opt for marriage, "to kill boredom".
While there are ongoing researches to establish the core cause of child marriages, the figures continue to go up unabated. Zimbabwe is among the 41 countries in the world with many cases involving minors being forced into marriages by their parents or guardians.
Issues that emerged during the discussion leading to early child marriages include abuse of orphans by their guardians, poverty, school drop-outs, abuse of technology and cultural influences.
Published on All Africa's website on May 9, 2017.
By Louis Kolumbia L
At least 4,148 girls were saved from undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) in Serengeti District in Mara Region in 2016. According to a recent Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) report, cases of FGM in the country have dropped by 5 per cent.
Launched on Wednesday, the report shows that the girls saved from undergoing FGM were equivalent to 74 per cent of 5,621 girls planned for it in the year and 1,473 girls did undergo FGM.
FGM practice violates girls and women's rights that is why it is a criminal offence under Tanzania's legislation. Launching the report, LHRC researcher Paul Mikongoti said the girls were saved following collective efforts by the police, the government and other stakeholders, who launched special a campaign against FGM and saw 32 people arrested and charged in the district. "Although the government in 2016 reported a 5 per cent decrease in FGM cases, the situation could be different as FGM is done in secrecy," he said.
He noted that girls in Serengeti, Tarime and Rorya districts in Mara Region continued undergoing FGM although the report indicated that Tanzania was on the right track in reducing the incidence and protecting girls from FGM.
According to the LHRC report, 82 per cent of women interviewed in the 2015/16 Tanzania Demographic Survey believe that FGM is against their religion and 84 per cent others wished the practice to be discontinued.
Therefore, human rights activists recommend that the police and courts of law should speed up investigation and prosecution of people involved in violence against children, including the FGM.
"Civil society organisations and the Social Welfare Department within local governments should increase public awareness on violence against children and encourage community members to report such cases to the relevant authorities to arrest perpetrators and bring them to justice," reads part of the report. FGM is a big problem in Africa, with the World Health Organisation estimating that three million undergo it annually. Tanzania has the prevalence of 15 per cent from 2004 to mid-2015.
Meanwhile, the report cites child pregnancy and marriage as main contributory factors in school dropouts for girl students. A LHRC biannual human rights report shows that 2 out of 5 girls are forced into marriage before attaining the age stipulated in the Marriage Act of 1971.
The report cites a recent report by the UN Population Fund, which ranks Tanzania the first in East Africa on child pregnancy prevalence and the third in Africa.
Published on All Africa's website on May 7, 2017.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights that must be realized for children to develop their full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of a family and community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. By recognizing children's rights in this way, the Convention firmly sets the focus on the whole child.