Namaacha: In the border town of southern Africa, Namaacha, mostly Portuguese-speaking 25 million people, practice the child marriage.
The country has the tenth highest rate of child marriage in the world. In Mozambique, the legal age of marriage is 18, but where parents or guardians have given consent, the age is 16.
According to the United Nation’s Children Education Fund (UNICEF), nearly one in two women aged between 20 and 24 were married or in a union before they were 18 years old.
Most of the female pupils drop out from the school in each term due to early unplanned pregnancies or because they get married. In the lower grades, there are more girls than
boy but from sixth grade, there are more boys than girls.
Ranita David Murasse, the director of EPCDE primary school, said ,”Every term, at least five students drop out because of this. The girls are getting married or falling pregnant because they are trying to escape from difficult conditions at home. When they have no food or clothes to wear it is easy for men to tell them lies and abuse them.”
As the large majority of the population remains below the poverty line. The Parents can’t afford to buy their
children books or sandals, and men take advantage of this sad economic situation. They offer the girls who come from poor families gifts and money and almost all the
girls who get pregnant, the men [who impregnate them] are older.
The young girls and the poverty-stricken families are at the mercy of men with cash. These men carry diseases and health problems. The young girls at an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Due to low levels of education and a lack of reproductive health information. The women are blamed for HIV/AIDS and a host of other health issues because of their inferior position in society.
A sixteen-year-old, Domingos is eight-months pregnant she was married at 15 and her husband was 17. She was divorced. When her husband lost his job and she became pregnant, his family pushed her out of their home, saying they could not afford to care for her any longer.
“Now I’m almost nine months pregnant. I can barely walk let alone go to work or attend classes in school. I depend on my family. They have accepted me back into the family,” she said.
The government has realised the scale of the problem and finding the solution by pushing to reverse the trend. It has started educating the masses about the benefits of keeping girls in school and not marrying them off.
Jorge Ferrao, the education minister said, “We are reviewing our laws and are also creating girls clubs where they can get help confidentially,”he added, “When a student gets pregnant, she is forced to abandon school. To reduce the phenomenon, we must seek practical ways to reduce it. With a more literate society, we will reduce the phenomenon.”
Ferrao said. The government’s efforts might have come a little too late for Domingos, the pregnant 16-year-old, but
she hopes to return to school once she gives birth.