OPINION: Shattered dreams, the unseen effects of child marriage.

By Esther Aoko

Everyone dreams of a brighter future. Waking up everyday hoping that things are probably going to be better. These dreams keep our hope alive. We all deserve the opportunity to dream and see what we dream of come to pass.

Unfortunately, this was not the case for the 650 million girls globally alive today who according to UNICEF’s estimates were married as children. They were denied the chance to enjoy their transition from childhood to adulthood.

They were unable to complete their studies, realize their talents and skills and most importantly their power of choice was taken away because they were not able to choose what they wanted to be when they grew up; whether they wanted to get married or not; who they wanted to get married to; whether they wanted to have children or not or how many children they wanted to have.

Mostly importantly, their human rights were and continue to be violated.

Despite the existence of progressive laws like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which covers the right to protection against child marriage in Article 16, the vice remains pervasive.

It is a social ill that escalates cycles of poverty, poor health, illiteracy and violence all which have negative impacts on the overall development, stability and prosperity of the society.

For us to end child marriage and allow girls to dream and achieve their dreams we need to first ensure that girls are able to access education.

Education plays a key role in protecting girls from child marriage as it ensures that girls are able to acquire skills and knowledge to be able to earn a living and support their families.

Secondly, economic empowerment: most of the time child marriages take place due to poverty. Providing girls and their families with income generating opportunities will go a long way in ensuring that the society will stop viewing girls as economic burdens.

Thirdly, empowerment: when girls are empowered with information on their human rights they are most likely stand up and speak out when anyone tries to violate their rights.

Empowerment gives girls back their power of choice and this gives them strength and the will to challenge retrogressive cultural practices and norms that strip them of their human dignity.

Lastly, Governments need to implement the laws and policies that protect girls from child marriage. This will ensure that the perpetrators of child marriage are brought to law and sentenced.

We are girls, we are not ready to be wives and mother’s. Give us back the opportunity to dream.

Esther Aoko is a sexual and reproductive health advocate

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