Ending Child Marriages and creating sustainable cities for Girls in Bondo, Kisumu and Homabay in Kenya

Samuel Kemboi Biwott, Benson Okinyi, Angwedh Anne, Asimba Achieng Maureen, Carolyne Datche, Dorcas Khasewe, Ennet Jarald, Everline A. Onyango, Faustine Onoi Ounga, Fredrick Otieno, Jacqueline Chebi, Leon Amiti, Wilson Shankiy, Mercy Chege, Caroline Ruoro

Abstract


 Nyanza region where the three focus counties are located bears one-third of the national HIV/ AIDS burden in Kenya2. The region also has the highest HIV prevalence rate among adolescents aged 15–19 at 8%, with females nearly four times as likely to be infected as their male counterparts. The area also hosts the largest proportion of orphans in Kenya at 19%. The region has the highest poverty incidence in Kenya with 65% of the population living below the poverty line, on less than one US dollar per day, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (2007). Report on the Nyanza Province Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, conducted in 2011 on status of the world’s children show that, child marriage in Kenya is at a prevalence of 25%. It is higher in rural (27%) than urban (17%) areas. UNFPA (2009) shows that one out of four girls is married before their 18th birthday in Kenya. UNFPA (2005) notes that Early and forced marriage is most prevalent where poverty, birth and death rates are high, there is greater incidence of conflict and civil strife and lower levels of overall development, including schooling, employment and healthcare. The prevalence of child marriage in Nyanza region is high with regional disparities. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics3 shows that prevalence in Homa Bay County at 58%, Migori County 56%, Bondo County 45%, and Kisumu 42%.

 

The above statistic shows that incidences of child marriage in Kenya is high, despite the fact that Kenya has signed and ratified a number of international and regional legal instruments relating to the protection of children’s rights and Kenyan legislation prohibiting marriage before the age of 18. However, the practice under “customary” law marriages and Islamic law sets no minimum age. Child marriage is a life-changing reality for many young girls in the world and indeed Kenya. Young girls are forced to trade their childhoods for a life that denies them basic human rights and their specific rights as children. This practice is mainly rooted in tradition, economic and religious custom. Child marriage is associated with school dropout and poor quality of life for these young mothers and their families.

Child marriage is a practice that traps millions of girls a year4 into a cycle of poverty, ill health and inequality, and which hindered the achievement of six of the eight MDGs. This practice will affect the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, 4 and 5: to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being, for all at all ages, Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunity for all and achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls respectively. Child marriage also undermines progress towards reducing maternal and infant mortality.

 

The KDHS (2014), gives evidence of the extent of teenage fertility, fifteen percent of women age 15-19 have already had a birth while 18 percent have begun childbearing (had a live birth or are pregnant with their first child). The survey shows that the rural-urban differences are small, indicating that early childbearing is nearly the same across place of residence. Prevalence of early childbearing is highest in the Nyanza region followed by Rift Valley and Coast; it is lowest in Central and North Eastern region. This is attributed to whether the women were living in rural areas and among those with low levels of education or no education at all. Women from poor families also recorded higher birthrates.

 

African Journal of Reproductive Health (2012) suggests that Sociological, cultural, economic, traditions and religious, factors interrelate to keep the children especially girls at risk of child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa. Child marriage is an effective mechanism for transferring a father’s patriarchal rights over his daughter to an often time older male in the community. The underlying causes of child marriage include poverty, lack of educational or employment opportunities for girls, and traditional notions of the primary role of women and girls as wives and mothers. Religious and cultural practices have often been used to justify the preference for Child marriage by both fathers and mothers with an aim of reinforcing the family’s social status and consolidate economic relationships.

 

Poverty is another major trigger of child marriage. Poor families may regard a young girl as an economic burden and her marriage as a necessary survival strategy for her family. Her marriage relieves the family financially and socially (ICRW, 2007). In some cases, parents willingly marry off their young girls to receive payment of bride wealth in order to increase the family income (UNICEF, 2001). According to the 2014 Economic Survey Report on the poverty level indicated Siaya (38.2%), Kisumu (39.9%) and Homa Bay (48.4%).

 

Early pregnancy has also significantly contributed to child marriage. KDHS, 2014 show that 15% of women age 15-19 are already having children, while 18 percent have had live births or are pregnant with their first child. Prevalence of early childbearing is highest in the Nyanza region followed by Rift Valley and Coast. With this background in focus the study sought to determine the extent of child marriage in three study areas of Homa Bay, Bondo and Kisumu.

 


Keywords


Marriages, Child, Girls, education, communities, safe spaces and counties

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