News / Africa

Women's, Children's Groups Warn of Negative Consequences of Child Marriage

U.S. lawmakers convened a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday to discuss the issue of child marriage and its effect on girls and society.  Non-governmental organizations estimate issue affects 60 million girls worldwide.

As she sat on a panel testifying before U.S. lawmakers in Washington, D.C., 32-year-old Kakenya Ntaiya was very far from the Masai village in Kenya where she was raised.

"Myself, I was engaged when I was five-years-old and to be married as soon as I reached puberty," said Kakenya Ntaiya. "Throughout my childhood, I was constantly reminded that my husband was waiting."

Experts on women's and children's issues told the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission that millions of girls find themselves in similar situations, with about 20,000 of them becoming child brides each day.

But Kakenya Ntaiya did not become a child bride - she was an exception.  Her mother wanted her to be educated, and they convinced the girl's father to allow her to place schooling over marriage.  

"Eventually, I was able to convince the community to send me to college, something that had never been done by any girl in my village," she said.

Ntaiya is now working on her doctorate in education in the United States, and she is directing a school for girls she founded in her hometown.  

Anju Malhotra, a vice president at the International Center for Research on Women, told lawmakers that child marriage is devastating to both the individual girl and society.   

"Where there is child marriage, we have the highest rates of maternal mortality," said Anju Malhotra. "Where there is child marriage, rates of infant mortality are high.  Where there is child marriage, there are high rates of domestic violence.  Where there is child marriage, there is high prevalence of HIV-AIDS among girls."

The International Women's Health Coalition says girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than women who are a decade older.  It also says complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death worldwide for females ages 15 to 19.

The U.S. State Department's ambassador-at-large for global women's issues, Melanne Verveer, urged countries to implement and enforce laws that set a minimum age for marriage.

"Child marriage is inextricably linked to the cycle of poverty," said Melanne Verveer. "Girls already in school are often forced to terminate their education when they marry, and married girls are prevented from taking advantage of education and work opportunities."  

Malhotra, of the International Center for Research on Women, noted that child marriage is practiced by Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike.

And Francesca Moneti, a senior child protection specialist at the United Nations Children's Fund, echoed that it is widespread.

"We of course know that child marriage affects millions of girls in all regions of the world, and especially in South Asia and in Africa," said Francesca Moneti. "In Bangladesh and in five western central African countries, six of every 10 girls are married before the age of 18."

Moneti and other panelists said child marriage violates girls' human rights.  

Moneti said UNICEF and its development partners had seen some encouraging results in places such as Senegal.  She said communities chose to abandon child marriage when community leaders were informed about its negative consequences and communities discussed the issue.

Panelists also encouraged U.S.lawmakers to pass the "International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009".  U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a Democrat from the midwestern state of Minnesota, introduced the act last year.

And, as for Kakenya Ntaiya who is pursuing her doctorate in the U.S., she says her goal is no longer simply to teach primary school.  She says she wants to help girls around the world gain access to education, as she has.  

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, US demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid