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Child marriage

Political will

by Angelina Henrich, Moses Ntenga

In brief

Many girls – whether married or not – have to work hard in Uganda.

Many girls – whether married or not – have to work hard in Uganda.

In 2015, the Ugandan government decided to address the issue of child marriage. In June, it launched its first ever National Strategy to End Child Marriage. Civil society and UN agencies were involved in drafting the five-year plan.

The national strategy is supposed to bring about improvements in the legal environment, change in communities’ mindsets and better access to education, among other things. It makes sense. But due to chronic budget problems, the Ugandan government will hardly be able to implement it without support.

The national strategy was drafted in cooperation with UN agencies and civil-society organisations, including Girls Not Brides Uganda, an umbrella association. Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 500 civil-society organisations from over 70 countries. The Ugandan branch has about 50 member organisations and is coordinated by the local NGO Joy for Children. The member organisations work all over the country and have strong ties to local communities.

Joy for Children, for example, is implementing a project in western Uganda, which successfully combines economic empowerment and education. Vulnerable girls are given goats provided that their parents have signed a memorandum of understanding in which they agree to support their daughter at least until she has completed primary school. Goats are an important source of income in the region, but also symbolise the value of girls’ education.

Ending child marriage promotes not only the empowerment of girls, but is also essential for the general economic and social development of a country. Young teenagers lack the education needed to contribute to the improvement of their communities. Child marriage deprives communities of a potential that would enable them to thrive. The future of Uganda depends on better education of girls.

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