‘'Help me. Help me!'' she yelled as she ran towards us. Mary (not her real name) was 10 years old when her father and brother decided to get her married to a 50-year-old man in order to gain money from her bride price. She refused to accept the marriage and told her family members that she was still too young to get married. Her family members insisted and made arrangements for the wedding. The night before the wedding day, Mary decided to run away and luckily enough, found her way to GirlAid, a community-based project whose mission is to end child marriage in Uganda.
According to UNICEF, Uganda has the 16th highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world and the 10th highest absolute number of child brides globally – 787,000. At GirlAid project , we are carrying out a number of projects that can be implemented by any organization to end child marriage in Uganda, including:
Investing in girls' education. One of the projects GirlAid carries out is providing girls from impoverished communities with free education opportunities through sponsorship and scholarships. Education is one of the biggest factors in preventing child marriage. An educated girl is more likely to marry later, have fewer children, earn more money, invest in her children and become a force for change in society.
Poverty eradication. When faced with extreme poverty, some families sell off their daughters into marriage in order to gain wealth in the form of money, property or other form of payment paid to the parents by a groom or his family. As a result, the girls are forced to drop out of school and get married at a very young age. One of the ways GirlAid is addressing this issue is by empowering families economically through equipping them with business skills and business start-up loans.
Sensitizing traditional communities about the dangers of child marriage. Local communities need to be sensitized about the dangers of child marriage. Girls who get married before the age of 18 are at a higher risk of dying during childbirth. More so, when a child is born of a mother younger than 18, research shows there is a higher risk of him or her suffering from either stunting (physical and mental underdevelopment through undernutrition) or mortality. In addition, girls who marry early are more likely to experience poor health, have more children over their lifetime, and earn less in adulthood. This makes it more likely that their household will live in poverty. GirlAid therefore holds monthly sensitization workshops in different Ugandan communities because together we can end child marriage.