A SOCIAL worker Joseph Moyo says poverty stricken families are forced to marry off their girl children as a means of what he describes as a “shedding off of excess baggage for them to survive.”
Moyo, who is the founder and president of The African Women Foundation (TAWF), says child marriage is an act that violates human rights.
“Poverty for low-income families that struggle for survival, one of the ways they can shed off the burden of caring for many children in the family is giving out the hands of their under-aged girls into marriage. This is a way to transfer the cost of raising a girl to a man who marries her, ensuring that only fewer children remain at home in the scramble for limited resources. Equally for girls from poverty-ravaged families, marriage sometimes becomes the shortcut to move out of poverty to some economically better households, especially if their targeted man is slightly better off than their parents,” he said.
“This, to me, is ‘a throw overboard technique’. When the ship is sinking, throw off some load into the waters to lighten the ship and stop it from sinking. This is what low-income families do – shedding off excess baggage in form of girls for them to survive,” Moyo indicated.
Moyo further said that when a family is poor, the more attractive and easier way to earn some income was through the bride price.
“When wealthier men approach a low-income family with bride/dowry price offering for their daughters, it is hard for them to turn it down. These low-income families jump at these financial offers and give out their daughters into marriage, regardless of their ages and
unpreparedness. To some poorer families, the chance of owning a herd of cattle paid as the bride price/dowry is the only way to move out poverty. The bride price becomes the motivating factor in giving out their underage girls into marriage,” he says.
“There is also the belief by some men in some cultures that marrying young virgin girls is a source of pride. These poor young virgin girls are treated as trophies, evoking pride in men, who regard marrying underage girls as bragging rights. In the same vein, there is
another belief that under-aged girls, who are still virgins, attract more bride/dowry price, which in turn helps to lift poorer families out of poverty. The girls are thus used as a means out of poverty. There is a rush in some cultures and a fear that if a young girl stays too long without marriage, once she loses her virginity, her stocks in terms of bride price diminish and plummets if she is impregnated outside wedlock. That leads to a rush to cash in before the value of the bridal stocks depreciate,” he said.
He, however, indicated that girls should not be kept as stocks that can be cashed in to the highest bidder and used as a means out of poverty.
“African girls must be treated with respect and dignity as a humans, and not as men’s trophies. They must not be traded and listed as stocks in what I call “Community Stock Exchange” (CSE). We must advocate for total and complete end to the commodification of the African Girl and Woman,” Moyo said.
Initiation Ceremonies: Are They Part of Tradition or Sex-Grooming Schools?
Moyo says initiation ceremonies are shrouded in secrecy, with initiates told never to divulge what they would have gone through, as doing so is seen as a taboo and would attract the wrath of the community elders.
“This confession is from informants, who are directly involved with initiation ceremonies from various tribes in different regions in Zambia, with whom I managed to speak. However, I found out the following problems: Problem One: The messages, in the initiation of girls from those who practice it, are problematic. Young girls, who go into initiation camps or schools, are exposed to explicit or sexually suggestive acts,” he revealed.
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