by ACT

  • Posted on July 22, 2016


  • Uncategorized

Tanzania has banned child marriage in a historic ruling on 8th July 2016.

Currently in Tanzania, 40% of girls are married under the age of 18, one of the highest child marriage rates in the world. Child brides are at risk of domestic violence and childbirth injuries, because their bodies are not ready to give birth.

Early marriage is a problem not only in Tanzania but in many countries in Africa. Each year 15 million girls worldwide marry before they are 18 with Africa accounting for 15 of the 20 countries with the highest rate of child marriages.  This deprives girls of an education and the opportunity to contribute to society to the best of their abilities in a meaningful way. Above all, early marriage deprives girls of their childhood.

Before the ruling, Tanzanian law stated that the legal age for marriage for men was 18, but only 15 for women. However, girls as young as 14 could be married with parental consent. With the new law, the legal age for marriage is 18 for both men and women.


Addressing the causes of child marriage

At ACT, our experiences have made us acutely aware that it is often poverty, allied with cultural issues that drive child marriages. Human Rights Watch has described marrying a daughter early as an “economic survival strategy”, bringing a dowry to a family or simply resulting in one less mouth to feed.

Often the cost of education – school fees, uniforms, the materials needed – contributes to child marriage, as poor families remove daughters from schooling early and opt to marry them off instead. Sometimes girls themselves are put off from attending school due to a lack of access to sanitation, especially once they start menstruating, making them vulnerable to early marriage – an alternative to staying home doing nothing.

ACT has been advocating the importance of education for girls for years and therefore welcomes the recent change in law in Tanzania and also in The Gambia. We hope that other African countries will take note and follow suit.

It is always sad to lose a girl that has been doing well in school to early marriage. In most cases, a consequence of this lack of education for girls is that the cycle of poverty is perpetuated.

ACT has been working in Tanzania for twelve years to keep girls in education in the regions of Tanga, Kagera and Kilimanjaro, to break this cycle and use the benefits of schooling to ensure they can participate fully in society. So far ACT has helped to educate over 600 children in Tanzania and provided welfare support for another 1400 kids in the three regions. The focus on education provides communities and families with an alternative to marriage for their girls. We also launched the Widows Sustainable Whole Life Skills Project in Tanga in 2009 and in Kagera we provide families we support with the gift of an animal. Projects like these help poor widows generate a sustainable income. Poverty is a major factor in why girls get married so young. However, with business skills and the ability to provide for their family in a sustainable way, widows will not be in a position where they are forced to consider marriage for their young daughters.

We hope to see a reduction in early marriages. However, this ruling should not be thought of as the end of child marriage in Tanzania. Challenges remain on how to enforce this law, particularly in rural communities. However, we will continue our work to support the education of girls in the country, helping tackle child marriage and ensure they can play an active role in improving their communities.

To find out more about ACT’s work and how you can help click here.






About the Author