Child marriage kills dreams in Guinea-Bissau

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Lizidória Mendes, Blog4Dev winner Guinea-Bissau Lizidória Mendes, Blog4Dev winner Guinea-Bissau

Many young people in my country, especially girls, have promising futures stolen from them by child marriage. This phenomenon has the capacity to delay and distort the victim’s psychological and physical growth; it is also associated with the country’s high rates of mortality and stunting, as well as low levels of school achievement that are detrimental to economic growth. 

It is possible to put an end to child marriage by defining very clear and sustainable public policies offering practical solutions: 

  • Launch awareness-raising campaigns for parents and girls to give the lie to myths and taboos about child marriage and reveal its disadvantages; 
  • Invest in girls’ schooling by giving them access to all kinds of learning: creating vocational technical training centers and giving girls incentives; 
  • Invest in the basic literacy of parents who are responsible for children’s education in order to facilitate dialogue in advocacy against child marriage; 
  • Standardize national and international laws on marriage: the laws in many countries allow child marriage, i.e., marriage between girls and boys younger than 18 years of age. The age of majority is below 15 in some countries; in my country specifically it is 16, while the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) defines a child as any human being under 18. This glaring contradiction prevents healthy advocacy to combat child marriage; 
  • Add sexual and reproductive health to school curricula: because if a girl becomes pregnant before the minimum age, it results in arranged and child marriage; 
  • Set up clubs in schools, with the key aim of discussing child marriage and early pregnancy; 
  • Create radio and television programs to raise awareness nationwide; 
  • Pass laws prohibiting child marriage and apply them; 
  • Produce an information guidebook on preventing unwanted early pregnancy (dealing also with puberty, the woman’s body, and menstruation); 
  • Distribute sanitary napkins throughout the country, thus awakening girls’ awareness of the reality of their lives, detached from community discourses; 
  • Create a shelter center for girls who are victims of child marriage (when a girl is a victim of a child marriage that she is trying to resist, she cannot live in the family because of the coercion). A shelter facility needs to be available to safeguard her future without her being forced to marry for fear of rejection by her relatives; 
  • Involve religious organizations in advocacy against child marriage (highlighting the passage on marriage in the Koran); 
  • Create projects aimed at the eradication of early pregnancy and female genital mutilation, which is strongly linked to forced child marriage; 

In my opinion, by putting these points into practice, turning them into very practical actions with defined implementation strategies, we will achieve the desired outcome, i.e., ending child marriage and therefore early pregnancy. Because it is impossible to combat child marriage without strategies to eliminate its main causes — chiefly taboos and myths, poverty, and social pressure. The notion of social insecurity has also been a cause of child marriage, so finding ways to reduce such insecurities will be a significant step in the battle. 

Children can no longer be robbed of their dreams because of dowries, misinterpreted religion, and civil law, etc. We must put an end to this situation. 

We are born to have the right to choose what we want to do both for and with our lives. It is therefore urgent to involve all decision-making authorities, especially the National People’s Assembly because children are dying alive without dreams. 


Lizidória Mendes

Blog4Dev winner Guinea-Bissau

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