Rwandan communities have the last word on ending child marriage

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Policies have been implemented and money has been devoted to supporting initiatives to end child marriages in Rwanda, but the truth is, our communities have the last word. The best policies may be implemented, and strident punishments may be introduced but the community will always have the last word. The best way to end child marriages is to directly appeal to the members of societies in which child marriages are prevalent.

When coming up with solutions to reducing child marriages, the primary stakeholders should be involved. It should not be “us on behalf of them” but rather, “us with them.” Many government officials may regard themselves incapable of providing rational solutions, but the community leaders can! They can provide solutions that are tailored to their needs and can be used to fix the problem, because it is not a “one size fits all” kind of problem.

In most African countries, traditional leaders are very influential. They personally know their village members and they understand their beliefs and reasons for their actions. They are respected by the village members and they usually support what they endorse. Therefore, it is important to train and to enlist their support in helping to curb down child marriages.

It is also important that we raise awareness in schools. Some of the girls think that it is customary and normal for them to be married off at a young age. However, when they are shown the negative impact of being married at a younger age, they will be more likely to resist the practice and appeal to the authorities when necessary.

Religious leaders have influence that can change the norms and practices of their followers. They hold sway regarding attitudes towards gender roles particularly those of women. To induct them into the initiative of reducing child marriages would be an addition to the probability of the initiative’s success. They can advocate for the empowerment of women which would alter the way women are perceived, hence increasing their confidence and value, which would contribute to the reduction of child marriages.

The government should establish village departments to specifically address child marriages. These departments can support the establishment girls’ clubs with activities that include information sharing and raising awareness to the negative impact of early marriages. In addition to this, it would be good to come up with income-generating ventures for these young girls because poverty and unemployment are among the major causes of child marriages.  

To crown it all, organizations and governments tend to treat these children as mere statistics, but it is important that they start treating them as human beings and involve them in finding solutions to their problems. 

Authors

Natasha Uwase

Blog4Dev Rwanda winner

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