Fatima attends secondary school in Mwasauya, Sinigda, Tanzania with other young girls and boys. She gets up every morning at 5 a.m., does simple household chores, and eats a small breakfast. Then she sets off for school – it takes her an hour.
As a girl in Tanzania, Fatima would be more likely to be married off before the age of 18 than to attend secondary school. Tanzania has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world at 37%. Every year, up to 8,000 girls in Tanzania drop out of school due to early marriage or pregnancy.
However, Fatima’s family cares deeply about her daughter’s education. Since Fatima comes from a low-income family, she receives a scholarship that is financed by private donors from Salzburg. As part of the scholarship, Fatima receives a bicycle to cover the long way to school; a school uniform; books; and writing materials.
This year a pilot project starts at the school in Mwasauya (where Fatima goes to school) and Ikhanoda (also at this school girls from low-income families are supported with a scholarship), where girls learn about their rights and equality. The selected girls will be empowered in their autonomy and self-determination. They are supported in setting healthy boundaries, standing up against sexual violence, and reporting it. The girls learn about their bodies, body image, menstruation, and FGM (Female Genital Mutilation – a common practice in Tanzania). During this project, there is space for exchange between the girls and for their questions. A total of 200 girls are participating in the project.
In addition, there are training courses for 20 teachers. Interested parents are informed during a meeting. Support from parents and teachers is important to create an environment in which girls can stand up for their rights.
Why do child marriages occur in Tanzania?
Child marriages are often associated with poverty. Through early marriage, the husband takes responsibility for the daughter. The family no longer has to provide for the daughter. In addition, depending on tradition, there is either a bride price or a dowry. The bride price gives the bride’s family cattle, for example, and alleviates the family’s financial worries. Or the family must pay a dowry for the daughter. The dowry increases with the age of the daughter, so it is cheaper to marry the daughter young. In forced marriages, there is often physical, sexual, or psychological violence against girls and women.
Figures & legal framework
In the Global South, about one in four girls are married before their 18th birthday – that’s about 41,000 child marriages a day. In Tanzania, the child marriage rate is particularly high at 37 %.
Until 2016, girls in Tanzania were allowed to be married from the age of 14. In 2016, this law was challenged, and the age of marriage was raised to 18. In case of disregard, the groom faces a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
However, with the consent of their parents, girls can still be married from the age of 15. Thus, while the law is a step in the right direction, it can easily be circumvented. (Source: https://www.globalcitizen.org/de/content/tanzania-child-marriage-girls-womens-rights-educat/)