Plan International Tanzania Director of Programmes Peter Mwakabwale made the advice here recently when speaking at the Intergenerational Dialogue held at Ilemba ward in Sumbawanga District Council. The dialogue was organised by a youth-led organisation—Youth Education Through Sports Tanzania (YES TZ).
As part of Girls Get Equal Integrated Approach to Ending Child Early and Forced Marriage Project activity package, intergenerational dialogue aims at engaging communities in discussing harmful norms and practices that lead to child early and forced marriages including teenage pregnancies and figure out joint solutions.
The project is funded by a Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and implemented in partnership between Plan International Tanzania, People’s Development Forum (PDF), Rukwa Sustainable Development Organisation (RUSUDEO), Rafiki SDO, YES TZ and the government in Rukwa Region.
Mwakabwale said: "There is ample evidence that shows that empowered girls, are powerful drivers of sustainable development and powerful agents of change, yet some families in Rukwa Region are failing the girls by forcefully marrying them in quest of getting cows as dowry price."
According to him, investing in girls has ripple effects, girls who are future mothers and women if educated and empowered deliver the good for themselves, their families, communities, and societies.
“If you marry your adolescents daughters so that you can get cows, I want you to know that, investing in your girl child’s education, ensure gender equality and ensure that they transition to adulthood healthy, the cows you get once and for all when you marry them, you can get them every year if you educate your daughters, they get employment either by employing themselves or getting employed," he said.
Marrying girls in their childhood, according to Mwakabwale, undermines them into lifelong circle of poverty, and many other human rights abuses.
The official said child marriage is a reflection of the way communities in Rukwa Region perceive and value women and girls.
“You cannot, and will not, end poverty if you do not end child forced and early marriages, teenage pregnancies, strive to achieve gender equality, invest in girls education and their health and well being,” he stressed.
When a girl becomes pregnant, her present and future change radically, and rarely for the better. Her education may end, her job prospects evaporate, and her vulnerabilities to poverty, exclusion and dependency multiply, according to YES TZ.
Ilemba village chairman, Pascal Bundara discouraged early child marriage as the practice deprives teen girls of their right to education, renders them vulnerable to gender-based violence.
“Now, through this project (Girls Get Equal Integrated Approach to Ending Child Early and Forced Marriages) we have an opportunity to correct this wrong and prioritize the health, rights, and wellbeing of our adolescent girls,” Bundala said.
“We are late, many adolescents have died, many have been pushed into poverty, but this project (Girls Get Equal Integrated Approach to Ending Child Early and Forced Marriages in Rukwa) provides us with a second chance to make sure that adolescents and young girls rights are respected, protected and fulfilled," he said.
Around 37% of Tanzanian girl children are married before they turn 18, according to the Tanzania Demographic Health and Malaria Indicator Survey (TDHMIS, 2016). This involves both legal and informal unions where the marriage is not registered.
The prevalence rate varies by region, including as high as 59 per cent. Rukwa is among the regions with the highest rate (9th) of child marriage in the country, which is above the national rate 37 per cent (TDHMIS 2016).
Rooted in patriarchy, control of adolescent girls’ sexuality is a driver of one of the world’s most prevalent harmful practices, child early and forced marriages and unions (CEFMU). CEFMU is a stark example of how women’s and girls’ life choices, down to the most intimate of it, whom, and when to marry are taken away from them and controlled by others, according to YES TZ project coordinator Navina Mutabazi.
“The fundamental aim of Intergenerational Dialogue activity, as one of gender transformative approach, is to create space for communities themselves to challenge harmful social norms around gender and sexuality, especially girls’ sexuality,” Navina said.