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Marriage in Africa: Women Unable to Divorce Easily


Early marriage is still prevalent in many parts of Africa, a problem aggravated by the practice of forced marriage. For many African women, divorce is not an option. Linda Frances Nakakande is the executive director of Action for Development (ACFODE), an organization that promotes women’s empowerment, gender equality and equity in Uganda by spearheading advocacy and networking. ACFODE hopes to create an enabling environment and to improve the ability of women in local communities to manage their own activities and stand up for their rights.

Nakakande told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that divorce is not common in Africa. People do not have a clear understanding of what divorce actually is.” Nakakande said that given the power relations created by culture and traditions, it is easier for men than women to initiate divorce.

“In Uganda, even when a woman is widowed, it is the male relatives who decide her fate. Rural widows are not even allowed to remarry. It is only the urban elite, women who have jobs and money, who can decide their future, but the rural women are still not empowered.”

She said some women get into marriage when they are young, and when they encounter problems they are at a loss. “Some men take advantage of poor girls and entice them with a few monetary incentives, but when the marriage turns sour these women have no fallback position.” She said her organization is trying to help such women by influencing policy through advocacy and creating some income-generating activities for them so they can be economically independent.

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