Monday, July 17, 2006

Too Young to Wed: Child Marriage and International Development

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 2:00-4:00 PM

Mahdere Paulos, Executive Director, Ethiopian Women Lawyers
Molly Melching, Executive Director of Tostan, Sengegal
Anju Malhotra, Group Director, Social and Economic Development
Marlaine Lockheed, Center for Global Development
Moderated by Greeta Rao Gupta

In an event on Wednensday, Dr. Anju Malhotra spoke about the implications of child marriage, stating that it is a critical development challenge in the poorest countries of the world. This is a very pervasive phenomenon in these countries. There are 51 million adolescent girls that are currently married and in the next decade 100 million girls will be married before the age 18. Legislative, cultural, and economic factors make child marriage an acceptable norm. Gender roles and the perception of social honors can be offset by educating communities about their existing harmful traditions. Mahdere Paulos motioned that honor, stating that fear of abduction and the stigmatization of premarital sex all play a role in why parents want to marry off their daughters early. Economic burdens are especially prevelant when the father or the supporter of the family die.

Molly Melching emphasized that one of the key solutions to development is respecting the culture of others: “respect of culture allow people to lead for themselves.” Mrs. Melching gave an example in Sengal for the positive integration of the culture and the religion of the country. Religious leaders and Muslim Imams have been greatly engaged to educate people and solve problems related to child marriage. Melching continued by saying that calling in media, developing classroom activities, and engaging men in the process helps delete gender tensions related to child marriage. Marlaine Lockheed underscored the interrelated problems between education child marriages and donations. Many families fearing for their daughters will drop out of school take the decision to marry off their daughters. The high fees of secondary schooling are a major factor for child marriage. Empirical observation have proved that in communities where scholarships were offered, child marriage cases dropped.

Discrimination in the educational system should also be addressed. Male schools tend to be of a better quality than that of female schools. In addition, in communities in which children are mostly excluded, a revised curriculum should be adapted. Education laws should be altered to eliminate any sort of discrimination in the educational system against girls. When providing education and work for the young females, their parents will view them as a source of income rather than a burden.

by Youmna Diri

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