Ending Child Marriage in Africa: The Value of Education

Published 21/03/2016 by Petra Chikasa

John Stuart Mill, English philosopher and feminist, argued that the subordination of women is not only “wrong in itself” but “one of the chief hindrances to human improvement”. Today, more than 62 million girls around the world, half of whom are adolescent, are denied the right to an education. Different cultural beliefs keep girls and women out of the classroom, in many cultures women & girls are considered inadequate or inferior.

Despite a lot of efforts, particularly from the civic society, to stop child marriages, the problem persists. Zambia , as an example, has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world with 42% of women aged 20-24 years marrying by the age of 18. These rates of child marriage vary from one province to another, and are as high as 60% in the eastern province.

To facilitate progress in Africa there is need to appreciate the significance of opening up educational opportunities to women. Education is an important tool that can help both women and perpetrators of their abuse because some oppress in the name of culture. When women are intellectually empowered, they get a powerful voice of their own that no force can resist. UNFPA found that 65% of women with no education and 58% with primary education were married at 18, compared to only 17% of women with secondary education or higher. Of the 163 million illiterate youth across the globe, nearly 63 percent are female. Offering all children education will prop up literacy rates, pushing forward development in struggling regions.Realizing the importance and value of education for all is important. An educated girl will stay healthy, empower her community and lift her country. Thus every girl deserve education.

When women are provided with equal rights and equal access to education, they go on to engage in business and economic activities that facilitate the development of their communities and nations. Increased earning power and income combat against current and future poverty through feeding, clothing and providing for entire families. The sustainability and progress of all regions depend on the success of women across the globe. As President Obama said while addressing the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, “the future must not belong to those who bully women. It must be shaped by girls who go to school and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons,” African leaders should go beyond speeches and create equal opportunities.

Child marriage is usually caused by high levels of poverty. Parents tend to marry their daughters off to pay a debt or because they believe that it will bring them some form of sustenance. It is very difficult to convince the parents and sometimes even the girl that going to school is a worthwhile investment for the family. In cases where the girl is willing to go to school, the parents prioritize the boy child’s education because they believe that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.

We need to let the whole world know that this is a real issue, through social media, gatherings, and that girls and women worldwide are denied an education because of embedded values such as early marriage. The battle against child and early marriages is one that has to be fought by everyone, realizing that girls are the most powerful force for change.

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