To end child marriage, Somali mindsets must change

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Bahja Ali Mohamud, Blog4Dev Somalia Winner Bahja Ali Mohamud, Blog4Dev Somalia Winner

Increasing access to education and changing the mindset can end child marriage in Somalia.

Growing up in a humble neighborhood in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu, where early marriage is a common practice gives me a moral responsibility to contribute more on this discussion, and join the fight against child marriage and propose mechanisms that can end this epidemic global-wide issue.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund report, the prevalence rate of early marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa – more specifically in Somalia – is one of the highest in the world. The majority of the victims are girls with little or no formal education, and girls from low-income families who cannot afford to send their children to schools. I echo these findings to be true, as a first-hand witness. I came across number of girls dropped out of school after getting married at a young age. Also someone who is so dear to me was challenged from every corner, but managed not to fall into the trap and recently completed her master’s degree at one of the finest universities in Africa.

It is therefore very important that Sub-Saharan countries and their development partners prioritize access to education for girls and children in their policy formulations. The more youth stay in school, the less likely they are to be married before 18 and to have children during their teenage years. Genuine investment in girls’ education is a real investment for the future!

In addition, boosting employment opportunities for the youth should go together with access to education. Because Somalia’s unemployment rate is skyrocketing and joblessness among the youth is a chronic issue that is forcing many adolescent girls to get married young just to escape the stress of being unemployed. Creating vocational schools where youth and unemployed adolescents can develop technical skills that are competitive in the jobs market, can give them the opportunity to pursue careers and make a living rather than ending up in an inadvertent marriage.

Changing the mindset

Fighting against child marriage requires work across all sectors, from the public and private to academia and individuals at all levels. Also understanding the complex drivers behind the practice in different contexts and countries as well as adapting our interventions accordingly is clearly evident. For instance, in Somalia, cultural norms among the community extensively promote the early marriage of girls. Unfortunately, many of our society believe that woman’s main responsibility is to cook and serve for the basic needs of the household – while chasing careers and furthering studies are considered manly businesses. That mindset must change.

The Somali government, with the help of community leaders, traditional elders and religious personalities should come together and raise nation-wide awareness on the importance of educating children, especially girls, and inspiring them to live fulfilled life through self-reliant mindset with the support from the Almighty God.

Further, the government must integrate the newly developed primary school curriculum with self-help stories and tips that would motivate our potential future leaders to aim high and dream big while at a young age.


Bahja Ali Mohamud

Blog4Dev Somalia winner

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