GLOBAL SNAPSHOT OF CHILD MARRIAGE
- Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18.
- That is 23 girls every minute.
- Nearly 1 every 3 seconds.
Child marriage is a global spread issue among countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Child brides can be found in every region in the world: Middle East, Latin America, Africa, South Asia.
CHILD MARRIAGE IN UGANDA:
- 34% of girls in Uganda are married before their 18th birthday and a 7% are married before the age of 15.
- 6% of boys are married before their 18th birthday.
- Uganda has the 14th highest absolute number of women married or in a union before the age of 18 in the world – 723,000.
- Customary marriages or informal marriages, where a girl lives with an older man, are significantly more common than registered civil or religious marriages. In addition, 10.6% of currently married 15-19 years old girls are married to men who have two or more wives.
- A World Bank/ICRW study estimated that ending child marriage in Uganda would generate USD 14.48 million in earnings for Ugandan women who married early.
(source: Girls not brides)
FACTORS THAT AFFECT AND PROMOTE
CHILD MARRIAGE IN UGANDA
While the roots are the same, the drivers for the spread of child marriage may vary from one community to another and the practice may look different across region, even in the same country.
- Patriarchal values. Child marriage is linked to patriarchal values and the desire to control the life of girls and women. From female sexuality to how a girl should behave, to how should dress, to the people women are allowed to see: everything is controlled by men thus leaving no freedom to girls and women to build a life according to their values, will and needs. Families closely guard their daughters’ sexuality in order to protect the family honors. Girls who have relationships or become pregnant outside of marriage are shamed for bringing dishonor on their family.
- Tradition. Child marriage is a traditional practice that in many places happens simply because it has happened for generations. In some communities when girls start to menstruate, no matter the age, they become women in the eyes of the community. Marriage is therefore the next step before motherhood. Traditional practices often go unquestioned because they have been part of a community’s life and identity for a very long time. But as Grace Michel, widow of Nelson Mandela, says: “Traditions are made by people and people can unmake them”.
- Financial issues and poverty. In most cases having a daughter got married is a way to reduce financial issues, repay debts, manage disputes, settle social, economic and political alliances. Where poverty is extreme families, and sometimes girls themselves, believe that marriage is a solution to secure their future. So, in the poorest families, more than 50% of girls are married at a very young age. In some communities a dowry or ‘bride price’ is paid: this is often an important income for poor families; in other communities the bride’s family pays the groom a dowry: if the bride is young and uneducated they have to pay less money.
- Life threatening issues. Many parents marry their daughters at a very young age because they feel it is in their best interest. Marriage ensure girls safety in areas where there is a high risk of harassment and physical or sexual assault.
- Crises and pandemic. Child marriages usually increase during pandemic, wars, social conflicts or after a natural disaster. When the uncertanty is the highest child marriage is seen as a way to secure the life of the girls and her family of origin.
NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF CHILD MARRIAGE
Girls face huge challenges because they are married as children.
Isolated and with limited freedom, married girls often feel disempowered. They are deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety.
Child brides are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers. They face more risks of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, of contracting HIV/AIDS and suffering domestic violence.
With little access to education and economic opportunities, girls and their new families are more likely to live in poverty.
Communities and nations feel the impact of child marriage, too. Societies that undervalue the contribution and participation of girls and women limit their own possibilities for growth, stability and transformation.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
In recent years child marriage has gained increasing importance in international and national development agendas.
Today, we have a unique opportunity to act on this momentum and accelerate the change.
Ending child marriage is not easy: it requires work across all sectors and at all levels. We must be able to understand the complex drivers behind the practice in different contexts and adapt our programs and measures accordingly.
Fighting child marriage requires well targeted financial resources and knowing how to invest them with programs that can vary from community to community.
We are on the field everyday, living side by side with families and young women: this is one of our strengths as it gives us the opportunity to allocate the resources in the best possible way to achieve better results.