Marriage is a Choice and a Child Cannot Choose

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Binta Gadio, Blog4Dev Mauritania winner Binta Gadio, Blog4Dev Mauritania winner

I view early marriage as an act that takes place before its time. Early marriage means getting married when you are still very young. In my country, Mauritania, this practice is widespread, particularly among young girls.  According to a study published by UNICEF, one-third of Mauritanian girls get married before age 18.

The following action must be taken to end this practice:

  • First and foremost, build awareness in the population regarding the dangers of child marriage, which can in fact be a source of several illnesses linked to pregnancy or delivery. To educate the population, I propose organizing awareness-raising training and conferences, circulating media messages, putting up posters on walls, holding concerts or even organizing marches, particularly in rural areas where this practice is more common. 
  • Combat the practice of fattening girls. Fattening girls is a cultural practice in Mauritania. It involves having young girls consume food in large quantities to make them gain weight. While it may not seem so, this practice is at the root of many early marriages as it gives young girls a shapely and full-figured appearance, making them look like women. As they appear to be older than they actually are, they are courted. This tradition should be banned.
  • Enforce and uphold laws. Mauritanian law is supposed to prohibit the marriage of young people under age 16. Marriage could be authorized from age 16 but only with the consent of the persons involved. While prohibitions should be in place, efforts should also be made to ensure enforcement of this law. Anyone who is responsible for or participates in a marriage ceremony where one of the spouses is still a minor should be severely punished.
  • Take action to achieve gender parity in the workplace. Local enterprises should focus on applications from women covering all business sectors, as women in Mauritania rarely hold high positions. Our society views a woman as a wife and the sooner she finds a husband, the better she is perceived. This encourages some families to marry off their girls quickly. If workplace parity is achieved, it will encourage girls to pursue their studies and they will not need to get married to feel confident, independent, free to make choices, or even valued.
  • Lastly, the most effective way to combat early marriage is to secure the future of young girls by investing in their education so that they can build a brighter future and achieve financial stability without necessarily focusing very early on life with a husband.

Without a doubt, marriage is something sacred in all religions, cultures, and human societies. It symbolizes the union of two persons before God and man. However, its purity is lost when it becomes an obligation and stands in the way of education and personal growth and development. Marriage is a choice and a child cannot choose. It should not be imposed. While marriage is a source of happiness for young adults when they are ready, it can also be a source of suffering when it involves children.


Binta Gadio

Mauritania Blog4Dev winner

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