Socio-Econimic inequities that give privilege to men and parents seeking quick riches have been conspiring to snuff out dreams of progress among young school girls in Iramba District, Singida Region, it has been learnt.
A week-long survey conducted by The Guardian in collaboration with the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (Tamwa), found schoolgirls being duped to drop out of school and go into early marriages by families greedy for quick money, a form of gender-based violence.
According to Amani Yumbya, village executive officer of Kisiriri, Kisiriri ward in Singida Region, the problem was more serious in 2009, 2010 and 2011, when on average three girls were dropping out of school for early marriages every month.
He said that by mid last year they decided to come up with a strategy to combat the problem, adding that they conducted secret ballot involving students to name men who were engaging in sexual relations with the schoolgirls.
“The exercise created fear among the men who flirted with schoolgirls, thus the problem receded,” he noted.
Joyce Lufega, a parent from Lunsanga village in Mtenkente ward, Iramba district admitted to have influenced her daughter, Vicky Edward to get married immediately after completing her primary education in 2007 so that she could get 100,000/- in dowry. “I forced my daughter to get married, but the marriage lasted only four years because the girl was too young to handle a family,” she said.
Ukende Mpinda, a member of Mtenkente Ward Council said that dowry differs from one girl to another depending on the tribe, customs and traditions. Mpinda said the number of cows given to parents as dowry is between six and seven, each of which is valued at 150,000/-, though there are some tribes where husbands have to offer up to 30 cows to marry a girl.
Elisha Makala, Nguvumali Village Executive Officer in Ndago ward said that most of the villagers are low income earners and thus force their girls into early marriages to get dowry.
Grace Ezekiel (26) of Kisiriri village narrating her story said she was denied opportunity to continue with secondary school education after completing her primary education in 2002. “I stayed at home for three years before I was forced to get married in 2006. My parents were given 200,000/- in dowry,” she said.
Wandoa Edward who dropped out of school while in Standard Six was forced to marry a 36-year old man in 1990 with her parents being paid a single cow as dowry.
Another victim, Nuru Mkumbo (16), a resident of Nguvumali village in Ndago ward was influenced to drop out of school last year some few months before sitting for her final exams. She was schooling at Ndago primary school.
Most of the girls who become child brides face many problems apart from failing to finish school. They have fewer economic opportunities and a multitude of health problems, including premature pregnancy, childbirth complications and high risks of physical and sexual abuse from husbands and in-laws.
Most of the stakeholders said that concerted efforts are needed to change the mindsets of Iramba residents where women and girls are given less priority in educational matters.
Iramba District Social Welfare Officer Hezron Msule said there are parents who convince their children to perform poorly in their exanimations so that they are not selected for secondary education. He explained that a major factor that contributes to the problem is poverty. Parents think that once the girls are married, they will receive dowry that will be used to establish income generating activities or buy livestock.
“Most of the parents influence girls to suspend studies for the purpose of marrying them in order to get dowry,” he noted, adding that some parents influence children to leave school due to fears of school related responsibilities.
Iramba District Commissioner Grace Mesaki said that they conduct educative seminars for the villagers in collaboration with private organisations such as the World Vision.
Mesaki said the villagers are educated on the importance of family care and education for their children.
She said children from poor families are also assisted with uniforms and learning materials to encourage them to continue with school.
Available statistics show that over the next decade, more than 100 million girls under 18 will be married throughout the world. Most of these child brides are expected to be from developing countries.