UNESCO calls for strong legal measures to curb early marriage

08May 2017
Rose Mwalongo
The Guardian
UNESCO calls for strong legal measures to curb early marriage

UNESCO has called on the need for the government to come up with strong legal measures that will tap good aspects within the traditional initiations dance and prohibit bad aspects to curb early marriage and adolescent pregnancy.

UNESCO National Programme Officer in charge of Health (HIV) Herman Mathias made the call in Bunda, Mara Region yesterday in his rejoinder to presentations made by community media practitioners amid concerns over harmful traditional customs suppressing girls and women.

The vice is reported to be so critical that girls' students in some of the areas are denied the right to attend school let alone seek medical attention during their menstrual cycle.

Mbazi Makame, a journalist from Tumbatu radio station in Zanzibar said girls were very much discriminated in the area adding, every month they miss classes and even tests or examination as traditional customs require girls during their menstrual cycle to remain indoors.

For her part, Amina Mrisho from Pambazuko radio in Ifakara, Kilombero in Morogoro Region attributed early pregnancies to traditional dances popularly known as vigodoro saying during the harvesting season, people spend as many as three days, day and night,a vice that saw some girls engage in sexual acts.

According to Amina, during farming seasons, girls miss classes as more often parents tend to their rice fields away from home leaving them with their siblings, a vice that had seen them engage into sexual activities in search of food.

Gharos Riwa, a journalist from Mazingira radio in Bunda, Mara Region mentioned Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as one of the most practised harmful culture in place.

"FGM is a requirement if a girl is to get married in this area. Failure to undergo the cut would mean a father-refusing dowry on account that doing so could be a curse in the clan," said Riwa.

The situation is reported to be no different in Loliondo,Arusha Region where FGM is reported to be so high with early pregnancies and child marriage being on the rise due to the traditional customs in place giving the father the mandate to decide over the fate of the girl child.

In Masasi, Mtwara Region Fidea Alimwike from Fadhila radio mentions a popular dance namely unyago to be a contributing factor to early pregnancies and school dropouts.

"Girls are taught how to handle a man in bed at an early age as young as 9 to 10 years where they are taught for a month and once out tend to want to practise what they had been taught leading them to become pregnant and thus drop out from school," said Alimwike.

In Mpanda, Katavi Region women are reported to compete in child bearing where 7 children seems to be the ideal number with the number being considered as the first born.

Among the cases shared, include fathers forcing their girls as young as 12 years to marry older men as old as 60 years in Loliondo, with the community radio intervening in the case.

According to UNFPA, fewer than one in 5 girls in Tanzania make it to secondary school with four in 10 adolescents getting married by the time they were 18.

UNFPA further clarifies that the rate of teen pregnancies is very high with almost half of maternal deaths occurring among girls and young women aged 15-24.

UNESCO intends to mentor community radio journalists and reporters to enable them improve the quality and diversity of radio programmes on matters of local concern with Information Communications Technology (ICT).

Supported by SIDA/SDC, the session brought together 29 participants from 14 community radios in Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar.

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