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1 in 4 girls is married off before her 18th birthday in Kenya

UREPORT
By okun oliech | January 16th 2017

Adolescence is a time where children (both boys and girls) focus on their education and gain skills to be used in adulthood. But unfortunately for some girls in Kenya, child marriage has put an end to their childhood or any possibility of further personal growth and development.

In Kenya an estimated 23% of girls are married off before their 18th birthday while 5% are married off before their 15th birthday. North eastern and coast regions have the highest prevalence rates while central region and Nairobi have the lowest rates.

Child marriage is more rampant in poverty stricken rural areas where girls are perceived by their families as either an economic burden or valued as capital for their exchange value in terms of goods, money and livestock. To justify all these, a combination of cultural and religious arguments are often employed.

Child marriage has devastating consequences. These young girls are often faced with serious health, economic and social issues such as, complication during pregnancy and childbirth, sexual health problems such as fistula due to immaturity of sexual organs, HIV and AIDS and other STIs, poverty, school dropout resulting to lifelong disempowerment, domestic and sexual violence, gender inequality and finally stress/depression that leads to suicide.

Research has shown that education is a key driver in ending child marriage. According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, 67% of women aged 20-24 years with no education married before their 18th birthday in comparison to 6% of women with secondary education. Keeping girls in school delays child marriage hence giving the girl child an opportunity to complete her education, explore livelihood choices and develop more fully as an individual in her own right.

I call upon both the County and National government to apply these measures.

1. Empower young girls with information skills and support networks.

2. Create a sensitization forum for community leaders.

3. Educate parents and other family members on the consequences of child marriage and the importance of educating the girl child.

4. Raise awareness in schools, the community, religious institutions, health agencies and social media.

5. Offer economic support to women.

6. Implement all the laws and policies that protect the girl child against harmful practices such as child marriage

When the government applies the above measures, I believe that one day child marriage would become history in Kenya. 

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