Standing for the woman (Part 2)

So nwa.The 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are: Niger, 75 per cent; Chad and Central African Republic, 68 per cent; Bangladesh, 66 per cent; Guinea, 63 per cent; Mozambique, 56 per cent; Mali, 55 per cent; Burkina Faso and South Sudan, 52 per cent; and Malawi, 50 per cent. Interestingly, Nigeria is not among.
Young girls who marry before the age of 18 according to the UNFPA, have a greater risk of becoming victims of intimate partner violence than those who marry at an older age. This is especially true when the age gap between the child bride and spouse is large. “Child marriage marks an abrupt and often violent introduction to sexual relations,” says Claudia Garcia Moreno, M.D., of WHO, a leading expert in violence against women. “The young girls are powerless to refuse sex and lack the resources or legal and social support to leave an abusive marriage.”

Most of cycles of poverty in very poor countries of the world points to the role early child marriages play in perpetuating poverty. Poor families marry off young daughters to reduce the number of children they need to feed, clothe and educate. In some cultures, a major incentive is the price prospective husbands will pay for young brides.
I strongly believe that any culture that impedes progress is a retrogressive one and not fit for the human race. In some cultures, there are quite ridiculous practices and beliefs; one that come to mind is the belief that marrying girls before they reach puberty will bring blessings on families. Also, some societies believe that early marriage will protect young girls from sexual attacks and violence and see it as a way to insure that their daughter will not become pregnant out-of-wedlock and bring dishonour to the family. Yet when the same girl is forced into a relationship she abhors, she ends up bringing worse opprobrium to the same family.

Ending child marriage would also help countries achieve other MDGs aimed at eradicating poverty, achieving universal education and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and should also figure within a renewed development agenda.“The needs of adolescent girls were overlooked in the Millennium Development Goals; they must have a central place in any new goals set by the international community,” said Lakshmi Sundaram, Global Coordinator of Girls Not Brides. “By using the rate of child marriage as an indicator to monitor progress against new goals, we can make sure that governments address the practice and focus on ensuring the welfare of their girls.”

In spite of all the right noises made about the state of the women folk,significant challenges persist in reducing gender disparities in health especially in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for more than half of the 287,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2010, with an average maternal mortality ratio of 500 per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality trends have been varied across the African continent and overall progress has been modest. African women on average have more children than anywhere else in the world leading to a detrimental impact on their health and survival. In 2010 a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa had 4.9 children, compared to 2.7 in South Asia and2.2 in Latin America.

The average contraceptive prevalence (22 per cent) is less than half that of South Asia (51 per cent) and less than a third that of East Asia (77 per cent). Although the rates of family planning use are increasing, empowering women with the means to control fertility remains a neglected priority. A recent study published in the Lancet showed that contraceptive use averted 92,752 maternal deaths in Africa alone, accounting for nearly one-third of total maternal deaths. An additional 59,000 maternal deaths could be averted in Sub-Saharan Africa if the unmet need for contraception is met.

Commenting on the rising culture of violence in South Africa, Leadership Intelligence News Bulletin notes that a research done by the Medical Research Council (MRC), shows that“women are most at risk of being raped or murdered by people they either know by sight, or have an intimate relationship with, it means that looking to the police or the criminal justice system for solutions is not going to get us very far. By the time the police arrive or a case comes before the court, it is already too late. It is also simply not feasible to arrest and prosecute up to a third of all South African males.”

The article argues that the difficult truth is that there is no quick fix. “No politician can change this, nor can any political party – though they may promise to do so in the hope that it will secure your vote in the next election. Politicians are as much part of the solution as they are part of the problem. So is the media, and so are you.”
It concludes that “politicians need to model the kinds of attitudes toward gender and violence that we wish to see throughout society. Politicians who call for more policing and harsher punishment in response to violence reinforce the idea that violence is a solution to social problems.”It is also argued that the solution lies in the way society responds to violence “at home, between children, on television and at school. We need children not to see violence at home or at school and provide support to those who do.”

A change of attitude across all spectrums of society is needed, and the article concludes: “Changing the high rate of violence and rape starts with how we care for and protect children and requires the involvement of everyone: parents, teachers, politicians, nurses, doctors, social workers and psychologists. Africa and by extension the world will not make a dent on poverty and inequality if concerted efforts are not made to address the state of its women.



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