As Female Student Network, we believe that education is a right, and that girls must get the same opportunities as boys to fulfill their dreams. Unfortunately, child marriages are a big menace to young girls academic dreams and the rights of the girl child.
The Constitutional Court on the 20th of January made a landmark ruling stating that child marriages are unconstitutional. Today we were celebrating this ruling in a joint march by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, students from various secondary, higher and tertiary institutions, Churches and women’s organizations. We are happy to see that such a broad coalition fighting such a patriarchal oppression of our girls. Its now crucial that we use this momentum to make sure that this law is now implemented and that communities around the country are educated on the matter.
Some people argue that marrying off young girls is in our tradition. However, the rise in child marriages in the last year is a clear example that its not culture, but poverty that is the driving force. If we look around the globe, we see that child marriages are a problem in the poorest countries. In our country, we can also note that Hurungwe. an area that has been hard hit by poverty, also has very high rates of teenage pregnancy. According to a study which was done by Ministry of Health and Child Care with support from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), almost half of the 19 year old girls in this area had been through a pregnancy.
Its time to empower women and girls
A court ruling is a good start, but we now need to do the hard work. As female students, we are dedicated to educate our peers and our communities about the ban of child marriages in our country. We also want to work hard to make sure that girls stay in school, and are not given away in exchange of a bag of rice. Fighting poverty and working for girls right to an education hence go hand in hand. Girls don’t want a husband, they want books.