Child Marriage in Africa
Child marriage, defined as a situation in which a person is married before the age of 18, is considered to be a violation of fundamental human rights. Child marriage generally affects more girls than boys and has been found to limit educational attainment and work opportunities, result in early pregnancy, lead to social isolation and increase the risk of domestic violence.

Globally, child marriage occurs at the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa, where four in 10 young women are married before the age of 18. While some African countries have been able to make significant progress in reducing child marriage, overall progress throughout the continent has been slow, making child marriage in Africa a primary concern of UNICEF and other international humanitarian organizations.

Global and Regional Trends

The child marriage rate in sub-Saharan Africa is 10 percent higher than in any other region in the world. These figures vary in various regions, with 30 percent of young women married under the age of 18 in South Asia, 25 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 17 percent in the Middle East and North Africa and 11 percent in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Within sub-Saharan Africa, child marriage occurs most frequently in West Africa, where 41 percent of young women are married before 18. This rate is 38 percent in Central Africa, 36 percent in Southern Africa and 34 percent in Eastern Africa.

Regionally, some progress has been made in reducing child marriage in Africa, as the rate in Western Africa was 44 percent in the early 2000s, the rates in Central and Eastern Africa were 42 percent. Only Southern Africa has shown no regional progress, remaining at 36 percent for the past 15 years. These reductions are not occurring quickly enough and UNICEF predicts that child marriage rates will remain above 30 percent in Western and Central Africa and above 20 percent in Eastern and Southern Africa even until 2030.

Age and Gender of Child Marriage in Africa

While a majority of child marriages occur between the ages of 15 and 18, there are many women who were married before the age of 15 as well. In sub-Saharan Africa, 12 percent of young women were either married or in a union prior to being 15 years old.

Data on boys affected by child marriage in Africa is limited, but it is still recognized to be a significant problem in some countries. The Central African Republic has one of the highest rates of child marriage for boys in the world, with 28 percent of young men married by the age of 18. This rate is 13 percent in Madagascar and 12 percent in Comoros.

Progress in African Countries

There are some African countries with low levels of child marriage, however, including Algeria, Djibouti, Eswatini, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia, that all have rates of child marriages under 10 percent. In the early 2000s, only Algeria, Djibouti, Namibia and Tunisia were under 10 percent. Notably, child marriage is the lowest in Tunisia, the country that has a rate of child marriage at 2 percent.

There have also been countries with high child marriage rates that have made significant progress over the last 15 years. Ethiopia had a child marriage rate of 60 percent in the early 2000s, that has since decreased to 40 percent. Zambia decreased their rate from 46 to 31 percent, and Guinea-Bissau decreased its rate from 44 to 24 percent.

Child Marriage in Ethiopia and Tanzania

Ethiopia provides an interesting case study for child marriage in Africa. Research conducted by the Forward UK, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of girls and women in Africa, reveals the cultural beliefs that cause child marriage to remain prevalent. Marrying girls young is a social norm in the nation, and families whose daughters are not married as children are often viewed in a negative light.

In part, this stems from the importance placed on virginity, and many believe that the earlier a girl is married the more likely she is to be a virgin. Girls may also be married to priests, as this is a way for religious leaders to gain respect. Priests must marry virgins, however, and therefore tend to have the youngest brides. Families also often perceive child marriage as a way out of poverty, as they receive a bride price and no longer carry the financial burden of caring for their married daughter. Some families also want to ensure they will have grandchildren before they die.

The organization conducted similar research in Tanzania, where girls may be married as young as 11 and where most marriages are arranged by the girl’s father without consideration of what she wants. Domestic violence is widespread in the nation, greatly impacting the health and wellbeing of child brides. Husbands generally do not have patience with child brides who may be too young to effectively complete the domestic tasks required of them, making them more likely to beat younger wives. Polygamy is also legal in Tanzania, which can negatively impact young brides.

Moving Forward

To effectively reduce child marriage, Forward UK recommends increasing community programs aimed at raising awareness about the negative impacts of child marriage, providing programs that will empower girls, improving girls’ access to education and establishing legal and medical services aimed towards girls and young women.

It remains to be seen whether progress in reducing child marriage in Africa will begin to occur at a faster rate. This progress would have a large impact and could help millions of girls across the continent.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

Tanzania is a well-known country in Africa with a slowly progressing economy that’s the result of gold production and tourism. Although the nation is working towards a reputable economy, Tanzania still remains one of the most impoverished countries in Africa. Human rights are an important factor to consider for improvement, and the people of Tanzania are looking for a positive change of laws and regulations to assist with poverty evolution. The critical facts about human rights in Tanzania are as followed.

10 Facts About Human Rights In Tanzania

  1. In Tanzania, the current legal marriage age is 18 for both boys and girls. The original law in 1971 granted marriage for boys at 18 and girls at 14 years old. As of July 2016, this law was revoked, and the constitutional court ruled all marriage would be illegal to everyone under the age of 18. According to the UNICEF, Tanzania has one of the highest child marriage rates, leaving 31 percent of children married by 18 years old.
  2. Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right of freedom and expression.” Although this law essentially means freedom of speech, the Tanzanian government uses the law to limit freedom of expression if one’s freedom conflicts with other human rights. An example would be the protection of the rights or reputations of others. Although freedom of speech and freedom of media can go hand-in-hand, the constitution of Tanzania does not specifically approve of freedom of the press. There are current laws in place that allow authorities broad permission to limit and control media. This is due to the media’s role in politics — withholding advertisement contracts from censorious sources.
  3. Female and male rights for the citizens of Tanzania haven’t always been equal, and that trend continues to today. Until 2014, a woman’s right to land ownership was denied even though Tanzania’s Land Act and Village Land Act, passed in 1999, provided women rights to the ownership of land. Due to traditional practices, people still left land control in the hands of men, but the current law is working to uphold equal rights.
  4. In 2016, the Tanzanian government terminated all tuition fees for primary and secondary schools. This change helped boost the secondary school enrollment but has been a hurdle for poor children that don’t live near schools or cannot afford school supplies and costs.
  5. Many girls in Tanzania under the age of 18 face discrimination in school. If a student is pregnant or married, school officials can expel the girls from school without question. As of May 2018, a new law allows for girls to return to school post-pregnancy.
  6. Women’s rights to land help in the efforts to tackle poverty issues in Tanzania. Women and children often deal with generational poverty, malnutrition and women’s economic empowerment. The improvement of these issues begins with increasing the rights of women to own land.
  7. For many women in Tanzania, it is becoming the norm for wills to be written to children and next of kin for land. Women don’t want their offspring to suffer from poverty, so being in the position to pass down ownership is a means for ending the cycle of poverty.
  8. In 2017, the president of Tanzania, President Magufuli provided for 240,000 refugees that came in from Burundi, Africa in April of 2015. As of 2018, President Magufuli ordered that the Burundian refugees’ registration of naturalization be suspended. This left the refugees to either live in poverty or return to Burundi.

Development Opportunities

The updated human rights in Tanzania have made a positive impact on the country and its citizens. There is more work to be done, but with limited control and freedom of speech and activism, the government will continue to call the shots and the world hopes those decisions will be beneficial to the nation’s people.

– Kayla Sellers
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in TanzaniaTanzania is the 25th poorest country in the world but has one of the world’s largest populations. Families struggle to provide for their children on a daily basis. Some consider schooling to be the way out of poverty, but education, especially girls’ education in Tanzania, is expensive and inaccessible to many.

Why Costs Lower Attendance

Research finds that raising a Tanzanian student education level by just one year has the possibility of increasing household income by up to 30 percent. This statistic involves boys and girls alike. School is expensive and Tanzania does not have many to choose from. Often, the families must pick one child (if they have the ability to pick any) to fully educate. Being a patriarchal society, girls in Tanzania are much less educated than boys.

Secondary school enrollment rate in Tanzania is as low as 31 percent. The percentage for girls in Tanzania is even lower. An estimated 5.1 million children aged 7 to 17 do not attend school. Only 52 percent of the children in Tanzania are enrolled in secondary school and even fewer complete it.

One of the greatest obstacles to girls’ education in Tanzania is the physical transportation to and from school. On average, a child will have to walk anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours in each direction to attend school.

The Obstacle of Child Marriage

Another obstacle to girls’ education in Tanzania is child marriage. Two out of five girls in Tanzania are married before they turn 18. This inevitably leads to young pregnancies and thus the necessity to drop out of school. World Bank Data reports that less than one-third of all girls in Tanzania graduate. It is considered taboo for girls in Tanzania to return to their schooling after becoming pregnant or having a child. This belief only enforces the gender gap when it comes to education.

Further, many children are not allowed to continue their schooling after failing their compulsory primary school leaving exam. Children in Tanzania are not allowed to retake this exam, thus, failing it completely ends their schooling as they have no way to advance.

Improving Girls’ Education in Tanzania

Education has been on the Tanzanian governments’ agenda since independence in 1961 and has been working into the national budget every year since. In 2015, the Tanzanian government abolished school fees and additional costs, a necessary and progressive step in increasing enrollment rates and improving education. However, financial barriers still exist including transportation and additional educational costs and supplies. This keeps the gender gap very much visible.

The best approach to fixing the gap in girls’ education in Tanzania is by changing the patriarchal mindset. This can be difficult and take time so it must start sooner rather than later. In addition, more schools are needed. The lack of schools in rural Tanzania limits access to secondary school.

Tanzania is experiencing rapid population growth rates. The country must either slow its population growth rates or increase its economic growth rates. The government credits the high fertility rate and rapid population growth to child marriages and low educational status of girls in Tanzania.

Education is one of the best resources to lift families out of poverty and increase a country’s overall economic growth. Quality education for all genders will benefit Tanzania as a whole and should be a goal of every citizen and government employee.

– Haley Hine

Photo: Google