Child marriages still a problem: UNICEF

16 Jun 2015 19:30pm
WINDHOEK, 16 JUN 2015 (NAMPA) - The Day of the African Child was greeted with cheers at the Groot Aub Primary School on Tuesday when various representatives delivered speeches dedicated to the rights of children.
The speeches of Micaela Marques de Sousa, the coordinator from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Doreen Sioka and many others focused on the theme of this year’s African Child Day, which evolved around the work done to eradicate child marriages.
This year’s commemoration also coincided with the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC).
In spite of progress done in several African countries, child marriages remain a critical child rights violations, which affects 38 per cent of all children across eastern and southern Africa.
“Around the world more than 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday, with more than one out of three entering into marriage before the age of 15 years,” De Sousa stated.
Even though child marriages are commonly associated with countries in eastern Africa, De Sousa emphasised that Namibia is not exempted from the issue.
“More than 3 000 girls and nearly 1 700 boys are living in a traditional marriage or a consensual union,” she said, pointing out that in a country with a small population, this figure is alarming.
Aside from focusing on child marriages, both the representative of UNICEF as well as Sioka underlined the issue of teenage pregnancies in Namibia. According to the Demographic Health Survey of 2013, 19 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 have begun childbearing.
“Infant deaths are 50 per cent higher among babies born to mothers under 20 years than among those born to women in their twenties,” Sioka said in her speech, urging for ways to protect children from poverty and other reasons that drive families to marry their children off at a young age.
The minister stated that child marriages are not only a violation against children but also a form of gender-based violence in general.
“We are not equal and Namibia has a long way to go,” Sioka stated when asked whether Namibian women and men are greeted with equal chances and securities in life.
She said the issue of gender inequality is not a matter of legislation; the issue faced today is bringing legislation to the everyday life of all parts of Namibia, regardless of region and community.
The Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Bishop Zephania Kameeta was also present at the commemoration.