The Day of the African Child 2016 and Female Child Marriages in Uganda

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Thursday June 16th 2016 was the official day of the African child. Organizations and citizens across the African continent collaborated to celebrate and create awareness of the lives of African children under the theme of “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting all Children’s Rights”. The goal of this event was to generate conversations and spread information online that would eventually impact and push people to take actions that would empower and encourage African children.

This year, the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) alongside Girls Not Brides, Joy for Children and other participants joined the discussion on Twitter – under #TheDayoftheAfricanChild2016 – to facilitate the conversation. The conversation gravitated around topics such as child marriage, lack of education, community sensitization, teenage and maternity health, and government policies and implementation among many others. As WOUGNET aspires to empower women and Uganda’s younger generation through information communication technology (ICT), such an event demonstrated how ICTs and social media can be useful means to generate ideas and dialogues while simultaneously advocating for young Ugandan girls’ rights and well-being. At the forefront of the discussion was child marriage in Uganda and its implications on young girls and women.

Regardless of interventions by various stakeholder including Uganda’s government, the civil society and development agencies to alleviate the negative implications of child marriage in Uganda, it remains a major issue hindering Ugandan girls’ capability and personal development[i]. Indeed, causes, prevalence and even practices of child marriage vary within each regions of Uganda including between rural and urban areas where cases of marriage without consent is more prevalent[ii]. Also, factors driving such practices diverge from gender inequality, lack of education, cultural norms and expectations of the female children, women’s disadvantaged status, poverty, insecurity[iii] and weakness in legal and policy actions, which includes implementation. However, with respect to these variations, Ugandan women who marry at a young age are still more likely to experience gender based violence and various forms of poor health such as low nutrition status, high maternal mortality, increased risk for HIV/AIDS infection and teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy relates to the situation of many Ugandan teenage girls subjected to child marriage, yet left with little choice in timing of pregnancy and getting a partner of their choice[iv]. These factors can also be exacerbated in times of conflict when young girls are abducted and forcibly married[v].

Events such as the Day of the African Child whereby people use online platforms to advocate for children’s rights and protection pave the way to new opportunities for girls to stay in school, work and reinvest their income into her family. This in turn will eventually help lead her family and community into better standards of living[vi]. It is indeed the duty of a country to empower children and promote their protection and rights to ensure their wellbeing.

Article by,

LaRissa Ituze, Intern, Gender and ICT Policy Advocacy,

Undergraduate McGill University, Canada

 

References

Girls Not Brides. < http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/>

 

Khristopher Carlson, LL.M. and Dyan Mazurana, Ph.D. Forced Marriage within the Lord’s

Resistance Army, Uganda. (2008). 

 

UNICEF and the Republic of Uganda. The National Strategy to End Child Marriage and

Teenage Pregnancy: A Society Free from Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. (2015). <http://www.unicef.org/uganda/NATIONAL_STRATEGY_ON_CHILD_MARRIAGE-PRINT_READY.pdf>

[i] UNICEF and the Republic of Uganda. The National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy: A Society Free from Child Marriage

and Teenage Pregnancy. (2015). < http://www.unicef.org/uganda/NATIONAL_STRATEGY_ON_CHILD_MARRIAGE-PRINT_READY.pdf>

[ii] UNICEF and the Republic of Uganda. The National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy: A Society Free from Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. (2015). < http://www.unicef.org/uganda/NATIONAL_STRATEGY_ON_CHILD_MARRIAGE-PRINT_READY.pdf>

[iii] Girls Not Brides.  < http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/>

[iv] UNICEF and the Republic of Uganda. The National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy: A Society Free from Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. (2015). < http://www.unicef.org/uganda/NATIONAL_STRATEGY_ON_CHILD_MARRIAGE-PRINT_READY.pdf>

[v] Khristopher Carlson, LL.M. and Dyan Mazurana, Ph.D. Forced Marriage within the Lord’s Resistance Army, Uganda. (2008).

[vi] UNICEF and the Republic of Uganda. The National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy: A Society Free from Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. (2015). < http://www.unicef.org/uganda/NATIONAL_STRATEGY_ON_CHILD_MARRIAGE-PRINT_READY.pdf>