Early marriage which is defined as a union, formal or informal, entered into by a child or youth under a certain age, typically aged eighteen, has been one of the leading cause of underdevelopment in most African countries, given rise to high levels of illiteracy especially among the girl child, unprecedented increase in death toll and a threat to the health of either parties. Despite the negative effect it has on the African continent and the world at large, little progress has been made towards ending the practice of child marriage. In fact, the problem threatens to increase with the expanding youth population in developing world as projected figures from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) show that, between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides. Seen as a prime violation to human rights, international bodies, integrated and non-integrated organisations are waging a war against this societal ill which has plagued the African community; a line which goes in accordance with the words of Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA when he said, “Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects.” The quest to combat early child marriage especially in Sub-Saharan African countries has been on and it still beckons answers. Cameroon as one of the Sub-Saharan countries officially recognized as the Republic of Cameroon, is a country in central Africa, bordered by Nigeria to the west and by Chad Republic in the northeast, with a total population of about 26,138,966 people according to the recent census of the United Nations, with the males making up a total of 50.01% and the females making up 49.99% of the total population. 31% of girls in Cameroon are married before the age of 18, while 10% are married before the age of 15, with high occurrence in the two states of Adamawa and Extreme Nord. Despite the many measures put in place to silence this malpractice, there are a number of predisposing factors that makes the ending of child marriage in Cameroon, a task as difficult as “getting blood from a stone.”
What are the causes of early marriages?
Gender Inequality: Generally, child marriage is driven by the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys and can only have a complete identity when they get married.
Poverty: As archaic as it may sound, some regions of Cameroon still practice child marriage on the basis of poverty. girls under 18 from poor households in Cameroon are more likely to get married five times more than girls from the richest homes.While it is a customary belief to receive “bride price”of a lady when getting married, in the case of an early marriage, it can be seen as some form of payment or re-compensation.
Traditional and Religious norms: While poverty was mentioned as a factor driving child marriage in the Extreme North according to a research conducted by the Institut Supérieur du Sahel at the University of Maroua (Cameroon), in partnership with Association de Lutte Contre Les Violences Faites Aux Femmes (ALVF-EN), supported by IWHC, traditional and cultural norms were mentioned as the key driver (41% of respondents). The rationale for this is because, marriage is seen as a girl’s life purpose. A young single woman is perceived negatively.
In many communities in the Adamawa Region (the North and the Extreme North of Cameroon), marriage honours the whole family. In Muslim families, the daughter’s marriage is often organized by the parents, who buy gifts and supplies for the bride’s new family. According to Fulani cultural practice, the family must prove that the girl is a virgin on the wedding day. If that is the case, the in-laws provide more gifts. With all these boundaries, rules and cut out life for the girl child, the close of early marraige seem to be a far-fetched reality.
while there maybe a thousand and one reasons that promote the growth and rapid spread of this unwanted practice, there are several ways to combat this societal ill which had eaten deep within the fabrics of the Cameroonian society. no matter how widely spread this practice still hovers within the far north region of Cameroon, the question still remains:
How to combat this practice in Cameroon??
There has to be a melange of various strategies to successfully erradicate the practice of early marriage over time. Consistency and a “holistic” approach are the top ingredients needed to make this come true.
Increase the girl Child’s access to education, as well as a comprehensive sexuality education Young girls, especially those living in poverty and whom are most at risk of early and forced marriage, should have better and easy access to education. The government should improve educational equity so that young Cameroonian girls can enroll and stay in school, by offering free primary and secondary education or by providing academic scholarships. Other measures should be taken by the state to sensitize parents to invest in their daughters’ education. In addition, school curricula should raise awareness on the current laws on marriage, as well as the dangers of the practice. Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) that includes lessons on gender equality, power in sexual relations, and sexual and reproductive health and rights should be introduced at thw foundational level for the Girl child to be mentally equip to resist any form of abuse. To prevent early and forced marriage, the Cameroonian school system should revise school curricula to include CSE, develop teacher training and support, and organize educational talks on these issues in schools and communities.
Create a national monitoring service against early and forced marriage A national monitoring service that monitors and regulates early child marriage should be set up both in the risk areas of the Republic of Cameroon as well ad other areas which are less at risk to prevent rapid spread. It should specialize in children’s and girls’ rights, and to track early and forced marriage would be key to develop a better understanding of the practice and the effectiveness of prevention initiatives. The objective would be to collect reliable information on early and forced marriage to disseminate to those working in the field, policy makers, community leaders, teachers, the media, and other key stakeholders.
Establish a platform for agencies and organizations fighting the practice Very few government agencies or nongovernmental organizations are currently undertaking initiatives to end early and forced marriage. The government has not committed to develop civil servants’ capacity to prevent the practice, which hinders progress. The lack of synergy between civil society organizations concerned with the issue makes strategizing difficult. Pooling skills and expertise, developing a coalition of stakeholders, and encouraging strong governmental responses are key to effectively addressing the practice.
Today, Cameroon became the 16th country to launch the African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa, ramping up its efforts to end a practice that affects 38% of girls in the country. The government were joined by UNFPA, UNICEF, Canadian High Commission, National Human Rights Commission, and other civil society organisations at the launch. The Minister for Women’s Development and the Family joined over 100 local girls in singing in a choir to celebrate the African Union campaign to end child marriage. This is thanks to organisations like Girls Not Bride in Cameroon who wage an endless fight against Early marriage.
Over 100 local girls sing ‘We Are Girls, Not Brides’ anthem alongside the Minister for Women’s Development and the Family at the AU Campaign launch to End Child Marriage today in Cameroon. Photo credit: Justina Kwachu
Not forgetting the all-powerful effect the media has on its users, it plays a huge role in the dissemination of information and altering behaviour. A national campaign, including mass media such as radio and television programs and commercials, as well as outreach to community, religious, and traditional leaders, should be organized. This study clearly demonstrates that early and forced marriage is a destructive and pervasive practice driven in part by a lack of information and awareness. And as such both public amd private media organ should be fully involved in the process of eradicating early marriage in the country Cameroon.
Enterpreneurial Forums and Performance Appraisal of “the girl child”:
Dating back to the prime causes of early marriages in Cameroon, poverty and gender inequality stands at the helm. “The girl child” by African tradition has been branded as the most vulnerable of the sexes and a gender of no identity if not attached to the man. These dogma as I would call, has left a message of worthlessness and less self confidence in the sub_concious of “the girl child”. Reasons being that most of the girls who are not exposed to a sensitized and educated environment, with a social status which is most convenient, always feel their ultimate destination is marriage; a common thought amongst poor Cameroonian girls.
Everyday we get to sleep, with little or no certainty if we’re gonna wake up to witness the next day. But if you do…know life has offered you another chance to bring your dreams and imaginations to reality.
Earlier today when I was researching on the internet I stumbled on one of Albert Einstein’s quotes on Imagination
Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attraction.
When I read this, I was awestruck. Because everything we see in this world came from someone’s imagination.
Your imagination is the evidence of things not seen….Why the evidence of things not seen? Because you alone can see it.
So it’s okay if you explain your imaginations to your friends and family and all they do is talk you out of it, laugh at you or turn your imaginations into a subject of ridicle.
That’s because your imagination belongs to you. Only you can see it. Only you can dream it and only you can acheive it.
The brain cannot create fictional images of what it cannot establish. If you can imagine it, you can do it.
Often at times our life’s real situation is not parrallel to the pictures in our mind. Your present predicament does not mean you cannot own your imagination.
It doesn’t need people’s approval, it needs your believe for it to become visible to the world.
Nothings is impossible except you want it to be that way. You are more than the eyes meet. If you can imagine it, then you’re up to the task of fulfilling it!
The major problem why we don’t realize and own our imaginations is because:
We tell it to the wrong people
Be mindful with who you share your imaginations with. Not everyone’s qualified to “get into your head and to see life through your eyes”.
Quit thinking “…. What if I fail?” And start believing in yourself
To believe in yourself doesn’t mean you’re some super hero who never fails, who’s got no weaknesses and possesses some super powers. Believing in yourself means accepting who you are and giving a try with all you’ve got no matter how many times you fail. You still hope that someday you’ll earn the reward!
Start owning your imaginations. They might seem so big and unrealistic to your humane eyes. But note no one woud have ever believed back in the 18th centuries that man will fly.
Yield yourself to time. And let time bring out the hero in you.
Growth is a progressive symbol of change and maturity. It only happens wherever there is life! With plants, animals and human beings. When someone does not grow, when change does not occur in the life of someone…you may as well be as good as dead.
Growing comes along with so many changes both physically, emotionally and mentally. No one ever desires to remian stagnant. But somehow and somewhere in our lives we are! When you find it so hard to move on from that broken relationship you are not growing. When samethings still hurt you all the time, you are not growing. When the relics of your past still control your future, you are not growing. When you are gullible in face of your weakness and haven’t gathered the strength to outgrow them, you are not growing.
Growing is living
When you cease to grow, you seize to live.
Can someone actually grow even if he is a failure??
Oh yes you can!!
Actually failures point out your weaknesses. It’s upto you to either outgow it or live with it.
One of the things I find most intriguing in living, is meeting up with people who think hopeful, who see further and who let change to be expressed through them to the world.
The journey of our lives is powered by the wheel of hope. A far greater expectation that Tomorrow will be better than today…..
But to those who understand the times, seize the opportunity, see the glory in the fall and the solution in the problems would always have a better tomorrow, today.
Earlier this year I was invited in Nigeria by my very good friends CEO of The Adekoya Godwin Leader’s Hub, to give out a motivational talk on Self discipline to some Nigerian youths…and there I learnt something worthwhile
Sucess is not the enmassing of wealth but it’s a mental transformation, and personal satisfaction in life. It occurs when we love what we do, find solace in it and use it to inspire lives
So here comes the list of 3 most inspiring youth Initiatives I came in contact with:
1. YOSDOC: (Your service Dot Com)
A budding but massive organisation located in the Central part of Africa precisely in the country Cameroon, is a life changing Non-profit Organization. Having as aim to impact the lives of youths not just within the localities of the nation itself, but world wide, is this Initiative which seeks to raise a skilled set of contemporary business tycoons in the African continent.
I happened to have had a talk with the CEO (Boh Clovis Nguea)of this organization and the rationls for starting this organization was based on the fundamental problem most African countries are facing.
When youths upon completion of studies step out to gain jobs, they’re always asked of working experience. Yet, they’re not given a platform to gain these expiriences…..this is where YOSDOC comes in
Recently in 2019, just after a year of full operations, YOSDOC birthed NGUEA 2N BUSINESS Enterprise to provide the Cameroonian youths with luxurious platforms of gaining needed expiriences, help fashion enterpreneurs and of course provide job placements
This organization is bent on creating effective change in the seven spheres the Cameroonian Society and revamp employability rate of the country.
2. Build Dream Africa Academy:
From the Southernmost tip of the African continent to every part of the continent is the extent of the impact the Build Dream Africa Academy is creating.
Focusing on reinstating the needed educational system that provokes creativity and personal development, is the underlying reason for this organzation’s establishment. Haven understood that the fundamental cause and reason for the delayed progression of African youth is due to “misplaced education training system”. A scenario which gives birth to misplaced orientation.
I would say this Initiative was founded based on the sacred words of one of the World’s Iconic leaders Nelso Mandela who said:
Education is one of the greatest weapons that can change the world.
Alot of Africans have dreams but do not know what it takes to get there. This initiaive comes in to provide a long lasting solution to this phenomenon that has plagued our African continent for decades.
Build Dream Africa (BDA) Academy is a skills-development and capacity building institution with diverse programs for short and medium-term training.It is designed to offer space to Africa and global innovators seeking a space to hone their skillset, innovation and patent their ideas. More than ever, BDA seeks to solve global challenges; quench employers’ thirst for skills which are fit-for purpose; and offer new pathways for job creation, poverty reduction and inclusive development.
I am so happy to have met up with the Founder of Build Dream Africa Academy). Truly, his ideas are inspiring.
3. The Adekoya Godwin Leader’s Hub:
A Nigerian based but worldwide affecting initiative is the Adekoya Godwin Leader’s Hub which is bent on creating leaders and visionaries.
Adekoya Godwin believes that in every Country or Society there is need for a rebranished set of individuals who uphold the virtue of leadership in every sphere of the society. His initiative focuses on Youth Empowerment, Education and Enterpreneurship.
In a society plagued with stereotypes, Adekoya Leader’s Hub comes to break the “normal routine” which of course has become the order of the day amongst African youths and a clear reoccurrence in most African settings.
The world is in need of leaders and front liners……