Girls Education is an important aspect of the economic, social and political development of any nation or community. Child Marriage is an issue strongly linked to education in both the solution and the problem.
There is a huge link between a woman/girl’s level of education and their probability of getting married early (not saying there aren’t exceptions to this) - while each year of secondary school education a girl completes reduces the risk of her ending up as a child bride by at least 5-6%, girls with no education are three times more likely to marry or enter into union before age 18 than those with secondary or higher education.
To contextualise this to the heartbreaking story of the Zimbabwean 14-year-old girl who died giving birth at a church shrine recently & many other girls like her, girls education decreases child and mother mortality rates. This is because educated women are often more knowledgeable about birth control, sexual and reproductive health and rights, antenatal care, children's nutrition and are more likely to marry later in life, pushing back the age that they have their first child. When women have children later in life, specifically past age 18, they reduce the risk of health complications when giving birth - they are more likely to survive the potentially dangerous first birth, as is their child.
Of course, there are also many national benefits to educating boys & ensuring they complete at least 12 years of school including reducing their chances of being pulled into violent extremist groups and gangs & with a more gender-sensitive approach to education, increases their understanding of issues of gender equality etc. Interesting enough, educating boys and ensuring they finish school helps to reduce the risk of them entering into child marriage too (Yes, boys are also affected by child marriage).
Education is a fundamental human right for all children, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), and is an enabling right essential for the fulfilment of other rights thanks to the empowering impact of education on societies and individuals.
On top of demanding action against the church leaders of these religious sects that force girls into marriage, we need as communities to become guard dogs that ensure our future mothers including those in these churches are kept in school. Demand accountability from the government and religious/traditional leaders on these issues especially so that education is made accessible, affordable and inclusive for all children even in times of crisis.
#JusticeforMemory must entail justice for all girls in her church, other churches and communities that practice this disgusting culture of marrying underage girls in Zimbabwe and Africa.
Education is one sustainable solution in the fight to ensure we don’t bury another Memory.
Honestly did not have words when this story came out because Memory’s story is really heavy, another honest fact is that a lot of Zimbabwean and African families have a Memory in their family tree. I don’t know how many times I hear stories of girls in my village who at 15/16 are said “ahh nhingi akatizira!” loosely translated to she is married now. She doesn’t have to be forced into marriage for child marriage to be wrong and infuriating, if she is under 18 it should upset us and cause us to act, period.
We know of girls in our neighbourhoods who got pregnant below 18 were chased from home into a marriage with an adult man, we know 14, 15, 16, 17-year-old orphaned girls who had to fend for herself and fell into the trap of early marriage, all of these children deserve justice because they are all too young to be burdened with the weight of marriage.
Be the ONE to say NO when you see it happen. We know these men preying on little girls, we know the women who enable this culture, they live among us, we work with them, we worship with them - it’s heavy - let us have the courage to say NO and stand up for girls when they can’t stand for themselves. #AfricaEducatesHer #IAmAnAfricanGirl #StandUp4Girls