By Agnes Kabonesa, youth activist, Uganda.
Child marriage has been and is still one of the most pressing issues affecting many girls in different communities and societies across the world. It is on the increase and there are threats from countries like Iraq to legalise it. Despite all the challenges, we can stop child marriage and this is only possible if we are able to do many things together to tackle the problem at a social, cultural and legal levels. These include, empowering girls, mobilising families and communities, providing services, establish and implement laws and policies that are specifically aimed at targeting the practice of child marriage.
It is also crucial to work directly with girls to give them the opportunity to build skills and knowledge to understand and exercise their rights and develop support networks that are important in the effort to end child marriage. Creating safe space programmes which offer a varied curriculum covering life skills, reproductive health and financial literacy will provide girls with an opportunity to build their skills, learn and meet new friends, mentors in an informal setting and learn about the services they can access in their community.
Building girl’s self esteem, confidence, agency and their ability to produce the desired results which they need to thrive hence providing an alternative for girls who do not have access to formal education such as married girls, a safe regular meeting place allows them to meet peers and share experiences which reduces their sense of isolation and vulnerability.
If we are able to educate and empower girls, educate and empower parents especially mothers, mobilise religious leaders and community elders, support adolescent girls who are already married, support legislation against child marriage, advocate for women’s empowerment, women in leadership in communities and governance, provide relevant economic support, get informed and take action, speak out about it, take pledge and fulfil, sponsor a child, support anti-child marriage charities and organisations like Girl’s Not Brides, World Vision, Pass it on Trust Uganda, UN and others, support media houses and people generally raising awareness about child marriage, we must do all these without any expectations of monetary benefit but with high expectations to see a great change and an end to child marriage in the world. There is need for an international body that addresses issues of child marriage worldwide, a body that must follow up with all the countries that threaten to legalise the act of child marriage, if every girl is married off now/today, what will the world be tomorrow without them.
About the author
Agnes is a 24-year-old Ugandan World Vision Ambassador with a special focus on child marriage. She has a bachelors degree in education and is currently volunteering with World Vision Uganda, helping to build awareness on issues related to violence against children. She is particularly passionate about the empowerment of girls and women, ending sexual abuse against children and child marriage.