Children in Uganda are still facing several challenges that have caused constant impacts on their lives. Cases of poverty, right to food, right to health, right to an identity, child labor, street children, child soldiers, child abuse, lack of education, early marriages plus so many others, the list is simply so endless; are frequent.
Even if the government of Uganda has put in place several measures to stop such child problems, the number of suffering children in the country has increasingly risen to momentums with early marriages as one of the rampant challenges.
Early marriage is a practice of young girls and boys below the age of 18 years joining the marriage institutions to start up families. Some young girls get married to little boys too of averagely the same age, while others are forced into marriages with older men.
In some cases these children are just forced or manipulated into marriage. However some of them just decide by themselves to join marriage probably because of lack of guidance or the available circumstances.
This problem of early marriages is mostly affecting the girls and the estimated number of young girls who get married before the age of 18 years exceeds 46%. And surely, these girls are facing the deadly consequences of this inhuman act.
Being forced into early marriages, the immediate effect is pregnancy. The number of premarital pregnancies increases day by day. Fine this is not fully attributed to child marriage, as some girls could just be raped, but still we cannot leave it out. Both young and old men have impregnated young girls who have even probably had their menstruation once.
These premarital pregnancies have caused lots of deaths during the labor time since these young girls can barely hold the pain of giving birth. The few that manage to give birth have been operated, but would this be the best for a girl of 14 years to start facing the impacts of labor operations.
Early marriages have also forced many young girls to start using artificial family planning methods at a tender age. Unbelievably, young girls of 16 years have already gone for injectaplans, something that is going to cause harm to their health. No wonder today, a woman at 37 years can stop giving birth involuntarily.
Cases of early marriages have still limited the chances of our young girls to go to school. The time they would have been studying, is spent preparing for marriage and their families. Something that is so saddening, seeing a young girl having to take on wife responsibilities at 15 years.
Majorly, early marriages have been caused by the high rates of illiteracy in Uganda. Children that have not gone to school are the same girls that have gone in for child marriage. There is no way a young girl can be idle from morning to evening and doesn’t think of marriage. Besides that, un educated girls rarely have goals to chase unlike the ones who have gone to school. So just branching off to marriage wouldn’t be something difficult for them.
Also the community perceptions about marriage have positively impacted on the progress of early marriages in Uganda. In the past years it was believed that a girl had to get married as soon as she started menstruating, this still applies in some remote communities and young girls are continuously forced to marriages, unfortunately, even polygamous marriages. Also some parents see their daughters as sources of wealth, so for a girl to delay to get married, would be delaying the father’s wealth in form of dowry.
Poverty is another cause of early marriages. Some parents have just deliberately sent off their daughters to marriage just because they feel their families are too big their shoulders to support. And the only way of reducing the number of family members is to marry off some adolescent girls and also receive some little dowry from the in-laws.
Peer pressure has also forced many girls into early marriages. Most girls have married just because they have seen their friends and relatives in successful marriages, and probably the husbands buy for them some simple edibles, now these little innocent girls feel that they are missing out hence getting married at early ages.
So to fight early marriages in Uganda, we need to tackle the cause and not the consequences. We should not leave the government alone to stress measures on how to stop this act.
If only two heads are better, how would it be if 500 people across the world came together to fight early marriages in Uganda.
Note that it doesn’t necessarily need you to come to Uganda, all you need is to join the campaign that is empowering a girl child, particularly against child marriage and support the non-government organizations in Uganda that extend help to the locals. We can also choose to take girls back to schools for better education.