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Children have been marching every month to raise awareness about premature marriages. [Picture: DW]
Hundreds of girls married below the age of consent have been rescued in Inhambane province, southern Mozambique, in recent months. One important step is reintegrating them in the educational system, experts warn.
Most of the girls rescued live in the Jangamo, Panda, Govuro, Funhalouro and Mabote districts, where absolute poverty is common. Early marriages turn out to be a way for parents to get dowries, which translate into money, cattle, clothes and even alcohol.
There are several organisations on the ground rescuing girls who married before the age allowed by law. “But after that,” Moisés Mutuque, manager of the youth and sexual and reproductive health project at Plan International in Inhambane says, “we need to follow up on cases and reintegrate girls into schools.”
“This is a child who is part of a school. We want to carry out follow-up work with the family where the child was born, with the family where she is married and with the education sector, because a premature union soon after becomes a pregnancy,” he explains.
Often, for survival, girls are forced by their families to marry men in their communities. But there are also cases of young people who start dating very early and leave their parents’ house to get married before they even come of age.
Henriques Bento says his daughter was forced to marry. Last year, the parents of the alleged husband forced the girl to abscond, and then she became pregnant.
“When we found out, we talked to the parents, because the girl was still a minor. She ran away from home (to give herself to the young person),” he says. But the girl was rescued by the NGO Plan International.
Cultural factors make rescue difficult
Olga Macupulane, president of Malhalhe, an organisation dedicated to reintegrating girls into communities, told DW Africa that the process of rescuing girls was not easy, often because of cultural factors.
Despite the law forbidding early marriages, much work remains to be done, she says.
“We have been able to rescue some children who had forced unions in the past, who must go back to school. It’s a long process. It’s not easy because it has to do with cultural issues dignifying the family in both communities. We may have the law that is in contrast to this, but we still have much to do,” she explains.Source: Deutsche Welle
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