Girl dressed in traditional Maasai clothing

On 16th June we celebrated The Day of the African Child and this year the theme was ending child marriage.

Young girls living in poverty are vulnerable to malnutrition and neglect but in many countries they are at risk of even greater long-term harm from early marriage.

Through our poverty relief work with the Sisters of Mary, we meet many of these girls. Living in extreme poverty they are vulnerable to forced early marriages and the burden of early child bearing which prevents further education. The Covid 19 pandemic saw increased risks for these girls. Some of the highest levels  of child marriage are found in Africa – particularly Ethiopia and Tanzania. In Tanzania, nearly 6 million girls are given in marriage before their 18th birthday, 3 in every 10 young women[1].

These girls lose their childhood. They miss out on schooling. They have no chance to improve their skills and they live in extreme deprivation. They face the physical and emotional burden of early child bearing and a life exposed to violence. Yet around the world and particularly in Tanzania and across Africa, girls and women continue to experience these harmful practices with alarming regularity.

[1] Child-marriage-in-eastern-and-southern-africa,  Unicef, June 22

 

Students in class being instructed by a teacher

Early marriage limits opportunities for the poorest girls  to reach their full potential.

Our work with the Sisters of Mary prioritises education for these girls.

We have nearly 11000 girls in our care at our schools around the world. In our school in Kisarawe, Tanzania we provide full time care and a quality accredited education for 627 vulnerable young girls. In line with UN sustainable development goals for education (4) and equality (5) we provide the girls with a proper, equitable start in life and the skills for future employment, independence and a life free from poverty.

For young women who have missed out on education in Tanzania we provide specific technical skills training in our Kiluvya training centre to help them into employment or to set up their own businesses.  At our nursery and kindergarten schools in Tanzania and around the world, we take care of the young children from these early marriages, so that their mothers can work or study. We provide nutrition, early learning support and stimulation for their youngsters. We help them reach their early development goals and achieve a better start in life.

No child should suffer the harm of an early marriage and we work to ensure every poor child has the quality education they deserve and the chance of a proper start in life.

Nicola Lawson, UK Manager & Trustee