It is estimated that one in every four Kenyan girls is married before the age of 18, and one in twenty before their 15th birthday.
For this reason, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Australian High Commission have come together to raise awareness around the critical issue of child marriage in Kenya.
UNICEF has steered a campaign, #ENDChildMarriageKE that aims at driving awareness around the harmful practice of child marriage, as an under-discussed form of violence against children.
Violence against children is a critical inhibitor of growth, development and progress in Kenya.
Girls are disproportionately more affected in child marriage than boys, where 11 per cent of girls aged between 15-19 are currently married, as compared to 1 per cent of boys aged 15-19 being married.
Although data also shows that the rate of child marriage has been declining in Kenya, it is still too common. The reasons behind why child marriage occurs can vary. There exists a belief that girls marrying for dowry may help end poverty and hardship in the family.
Additionally, some traditions encourage early marriages with social pressure or consideration that marriage may become “more difficult” with age. Furthermore, in some communities, unplanned pregnancy at a young age initiates marriage as a next step, to preserve family honour and pride.
Regardless of the reasoning, child marriage is a form of violence against children, and a violation of human rights. Being married as a child can lead to a lifetime of disadvantage and deprivation, including higher risk of domestic violence, contracting HIV, loss of education and income earning potential, and more.
“What can I do,” you ask? Join the #ENDChildMarriageKE campaign. Share its messages. And if in any case you witness violence against children, report it by dialing 116.