When we have a group of people especially women in support of leading a positive change at the community then we have what we need to speak out loud (a grassroot movement). Many young girls continue finding themselves in early forced marriages. Others have become victims of various situations.
In Tanzania as in other parts of the world are witnessing this kind of violation of children’s rights. Although the UN convention on children’s rights has been adopted and ratified. This is yet to be implemented.
According to Tanzanian statutory laws the legal marriage age of boys is 18yrs and marriage age of girls at age 15yrs. The local customary law the marriage age of depends on the ethnic community. These two run parallel to each other. It does not limit the age of the men to marry the girls. The Tanzania Women Lawyers Association according to their recent reports took up this issue to a considerable level. In 2000, Tanzania took an important step towards this end by amending its Constitution to add gender as a basis of non-discrimination. Despite this step forward, the practices of child marriage and guardianship still exist in Tanzania, and are harmful to women and Tanzanian society. To continue working towards its goal of gender equality, Tanzania must take the next step of abolishing child marriage and guardianship over adult women.
[Then there are] selfish people who marry young girls and put them to
bed straight away. The girls lose their youth, they have psychological
problems. It is unbecoming.
—Grace Makenya, Advocacy for Women in Africa
Grace Makenya does not describe the problems of a few girls, but the lives of many. Child marriage is a persistent problem in Tanzania. Approximately twenty-five percent of Tanzanian girls are married. This means that approximately 471,000 girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are already married. Actual numbers could be higher, but inaccurate birth and marriage records obscure exact figures. Missing and unrecorded marriages also contribute to the confusion on actual number of child brides. Tanzania’s Law of Marriage Act authorizes child marriage. The law sanctions the marriage of girls as children, while requiring boys to first be adults: “No person shall marry who, being male, has not attained the apparent age of eighteen years or, being female, has not attained the apparent age of fifteen years. In addition, a court may give leave for the marriage of a fourteen-year-old girl, if the court “is satisfied that there are special circumstances which make the proposed marriage desirable.
Late last year 2014 a girl was married off to a 72yrs old man. The age difference is too wide but well justified by the community in favor of the man. She became pregnant and early this year 2015 she died of early pregnancy related complications. This is just one among many unreported cases. This has been going on for a long time. Many of these girls married off are school going age children. They assume the roles of older women instead of growing out of childhood. They skip a very important stage where they are supposed to play and grow physically and mentally. Meaning proper development of the child is aborted by this assumption
These are the outcomes of unsupportive laws. We need to bring our voices together and educate our communities on the importance of supporting girls’ education and urge our governments to amend these unsupportive laws.
My vision is to expand my networks and joining others who help support girls and women and communities to transform our world.Grassroots Mobilizing