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http://www.womenseducationpartnership.org

Challenging Child Marriage Practices through Literacy 

“Shield me, God, from this old man. Let needle fly and pierce his eye.” Traditional murhakah (corn grinding) marriage song, quoted by Professor Abdullah El Tayeb in Changing Customs of the Sudan  

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Some of our Literacy Participants at Al Fatih Literacy Circle 

Child Marriage in Sudan – Research Overview and How REFLECT Literacy Circles Challenge Child Marriage Practices

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Child Marriage in Sudan – Research Overview: Seven Findings,  The Role of Education,   The Impact of Child Marriage

“Child marriage affects every aspect of a girl’s life. Girls who marry early are denied their childhood.  Once married, these girls have little or no access to education and economic opportunities and they and their families have little or no access to education and economic opportunities and their families are more likely to live in poverty.  Child brides also face a higher risk of experiencing dangerous, life -threatening complications in pregnancy, contracting HIV, and suffering domestic and sexual violence. Child marriage deprives girls of their right to choose if, when and whom to marry and what type of family to create. it also deprives girls of their rights to education, to health, and to live in security.” Amnesty International The Devastating Impact of Child Marriage on Girls

Scroll down to Impact of Child Marriage to read more 

This is a Literacy blogpost for Women’s Education Partnership 

http://www.womenseducationpartnership.org

Interested in learning more about our work? Visit Women’s Education Partnership

Infant mortality is 60% higher when the mother was under the age of 18.Child Marriage: A Silent Health and Human RIghts Issue

Child Marriage – Seven Findings 

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Some of our younger literacy attendees at El Fatih Literacy Circle 

All photographs of our educational work are copyright Imogen Thurbon and may not be reproduced without written permission. 

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“34% of girls in Sudan are married before the age of 18 and 12% are married before their 15th birthday. According to UNICEF, Sudan has the 16th highest absolute number of child brides in the world – 640,000. Child marriage is most prevalent in South and East Darfur (where 56% of women aged 20-49 were married before the age of 18), Central Darfur (55%), The Blue Nile (50%) and Gadarif (49%).”  Girls not Brides (see below)

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Girls from poor households are twice as likely to be married during childhood than those  from rich households – UNICEF, 2012  See UNICEF Child Marriage

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Poverty is the overwhelming driver of child marriage, especially among rural communities. Survey respondents often say they see no educational or economic alternative to early marriage.   Child marriage has profound economic costs on the developing world as it denies young women access to the labour market or limits their earning capacity.   

See too Socio-Demographic Factors Affecting Child Marriage in Sudan

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Source : Girls not Brides Child Marriage Sudan

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Sudan’s Muslim Personal Law of 1991 defines the minimum age of marriage at tamyeez (maturity) as 10 years old and stipulates the consent of both parties.  Numerous bodies have urged reform of the law, citing incompatibility with the 2010 National Child Act which defines the child as a person under the age of 18. 

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Sudan categorized child marriage as a form of violence against women and issued a national plan (2012-2016) to eradicate the practice.

International bodies, such as UNICEF and Girls Not Brides, see legal reform re-enforced by dialogue with tribal, religious and other community leaders as the most effective means of eradicating the practice.

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“Men are known by their tribe and women by their good deeds”

Parents often agonize over whether to endorse the early marriage of their children and the issues are not straightforward, as this extract shows:

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A Practical Guide to Measuring Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in Impact Evaluations 

Parents believe child marriage will protect their daughters’ chastity, family honor and guard against sexual assault, promiscuity and unplanned pregnancy.  This is particularly true in conflict areas where child marriage is seen as a way of protecting daughters from assault and rape MENA-ChildMarriageInMENA-Report.pdf

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Increase in Child Marriage in Darfur

However, numerous research studies indicate that women who marry young are more likely to be beaten or threatened and to believe that their husband might be justified in beating or raping them. The socialization of child brides re-enforces obedience and lack of agency among young girls married to older men.

See Child Marriage and Domestic Violence 

“An element of coercion is nearly always involved in child marriage; parents, guardians or families pressure or force children into marriage, sometimes even colluding with others to do so. Child brides and grooms have little say in when or whom to marry.” Girls, Child Marriage, and Education in Red Sea State, Sudan: Perspectives on Girls’ Freedom to Choose

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Mothers often play key roles in re-enforcing child marriage practices with their own daughters Sudan -girls-child-marriage

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“Let your son choose his own wife but choose a husband for your daughter” – proverb

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Child marriage must be seen in the broader context of prevailing understandings of gender equality and empowerment in Sudan. See Third Class Citizens Women’s Struggle for Equal Citizenship in Sudan

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Northern Sudanese children at a celebration dressed in traditional wedding costume (photo  Mohamed Altoum from A Photographer’s Quest to Discover His Nubian Ancestry, The New York Times 

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See future posts on the vibrancy and grace of Sudanese wedding customs and the jewelry, perfumes and fabrics associated with them 

Perfume and Scented Woods used in Wedding Rituals 

This is a Literacy blogpost for Women’s Education Partnership 

http://www.womenseducationpartnership.org

Interested in supporting our work? Visit Women’s Education Partnership

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The Role of Education – Breaking the Circle – Key Issues 

“A lack of education for girls is both a cause and effect of child marriage.”  Sudan -girls-child-marriage

Below 7 Key Findings from International Research 

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The heavy burden of domestic work undertaken principally by girls does not give them time to study even when they have access to education and when they fail, they leave school. Note that girls outperform boys in both secondary and university contexts in Sudan.

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Lack of educational facilities in general – parents fear that having to travel long distances to attend school, for example,  may expose girls to danger – and little curriculum focus on children’s rights contribute to the continuation of child marriage. 

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With limited time and opportunity to benefit from literacy classes, adult women remain illiterate – a condition that accounts significantly for the inter-generational reproduction of illiteracy. Adult Literacy and Women: A Present Account  https://journals.uncc.edu/dsj/article/download/506/pdf

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“After marriage, young married girls’ access to formal and even non-formal education is severely limited because of restrictions placed on mobility, domestic burdens, childbearing, and social norms that view marriage and schooling as incompatible.”

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“If child marriage and early pregnancies could be eliminated, this could potentially reduce the gender gap in education by about half.” Quoting international research in:

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Read the report here: Sudan -girls-child-marriage

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Sudan, like most developing countries, sees improving primary school uptake as the key to eradicating illiteracy longterm.   Child marriage is highly correlated with young girls never attending school or abandoning both primary and secondary schooling.  Nguyen and Woden  -see more in Educating Girls and Ending Child Marriage: A Priority for Africa World Bank Group

132200-WP-P168381-PUBLIC-11-20-18-Africa-GE-CM-Conference-Edition2

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See more in Child Marriage_ A Critical Barrier to Girls’ Schooling and Gender Equality in Education  from The Review of Faith and International Affairs 

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Focusing on primary school uptake at the expense of adult literacy programs, many academics warn, “ignores the  empirical evidence about the significant failure rates to complete primary education in several regions of the world, which means that the formal system is still generating illiterates…(Nelly Stromquist)

Nelly Stromquist’s Adult Literacy and Women: A Present Account powerfully challenges perceived wisdom surrounding literacy policy and calls for renewed focus on explicit Adult Literacy for Women  https://journals.uncc.edu/dsj/article/download/506/pdf

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Child Marriage – Its Impact on Women and Girls 

“Child marriage affects every aspect of a girl’s life. Girls who marry early are denied their childhood.  Once married, these girls have little or no access to education and economic opportunities and they and their families have little or no access to education and economic opportunities and their families are more likely to live in poverty.  Child brides also face a higher risk of experiencing dangerous, life -threatening complications in pregnancy, contracting HIV, and suffering domestic and sexual violence. Child marriage deprives girls of their right to choose if, when and whom to marry and what type of family to create. it also deprives girls of their rights to education, to health, and to live in security. “Amnesty International The Devastating Impact of Child Marriage on Girls

Read this powerful personal testimony  of the emotional challenges faced by a young Sudanese girl in A Child Bride in Sudan – Pulitzer Centre

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Some of the elementary students from disadvantaged social and ethnic backgrounds whose education WEP has supported 

The Impact on Health 

The detrimental health impact of child marriage on young girls is far-reaching and often life-long, including physical conditions such as obstructed labour, fistulas and incontinence and profound psychological and emotional distress.

Girls between ages 10 and 14 are five to seven times more likely and girls between ages 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die during childbirth 

Mothers under 18 have a 35% to 55% higher risk of delivering a preterm or low birthweight infant than mothers older than 19. 

Infant mortality is 60% higher when the mother was under the age of 18.

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One of our young mothers attending El Fatih Literacy Circle 

On pregnant girls in malaria regions – of the 10.5 million girls and women who become infected with malaria , 50% die. Their highest risk is during their first pregnancy. Pregnancy not only increases the risk of acquiring malaria, but pregnant girls under the age of 19 have a significantly higher malaria density than pregnant women over the age of 19.  They are also at significant risk of malaria-related complications such as severe anemia, pulmonary edema, and hypoglycemia. Read more on the grave medical risks correlated  with female child marriage in Child Marriage: A Silent Health and Human RIghts Issue

Ending child marriage is one of the UN’s 2030 Sustainability Development Goals and is itself essential for achieving other key UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals 

See too UNICEF’s Child Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa MENA-ChildMarriageInMENA-Report.pdf

This is a Literacy blogpost for Women’s Education Partnership 

http://www.womenseducationpartnership.org

Interested in supporting our work? Visit Women’s Education Partnership

All photographs of our educational work in this blogpost are copyright Imogen Thurbon and may not be reproduced without written permission img_8773-1-e1555698424438.jpg

El Fatih Literacy Circle 

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How REFLECT Literacy Circles Challenge Child Marriage Practices – 3 Ways

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Our literacy circles seek to break what Stromquist calls above the intergenerational cycle of illiteracy and with it that of early marriage.  Many of the younger mothers who attend our circles married very young themselves and tell us  – often with painful and heartfelt urgency – that the one thing they want for their daughters is the freedom for them to pursue their education fully before marriage.   Many of our participants recount their painful experiences of a youth burdened by early marriage and the domestic responsibilities and lack of economic and educational opportunities it brought in its wake. The income generating projects and skills training offered in our circles in such areas as food processing can in a small way compensate for that loss of opportunity and give our participants a renewed sense of self-esteem, independence and agency.  Sometimes our graduates go on to pursue secondary school and higher diplomas. 

Often work on child marriage awareness grows naturally out of REFLECT literacy and development programs’ core approach which places education centre stage and asks fundamental questions about its value and relevance.   This includes participants analyzing educational opportunities in the community,  considering gender-based differences in patterns of education in the community and differences in workloads between boys and girls.

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A model for matrixes generated by literacy participants on education trends

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Discussion prompts for surveys and debate on educational resources and gender-based contrasts 

Sometimes ideas for action undertaken by the circle might include organizing a parent teacher’s association or village education committee, setting up a non-formal education centre, launching a campaign to improve school attendance or undertaking a full community literacy survey.

The impact of child marriage on education comes sharply into focus during this work and attitudes explored through dialogue, informal surveys and community research.

img_5202Attitudes cited by respondents in relation to female child marriage and education in Sudan -girls-child-marriage

Sudanese perfume and scented oil and paste pots (right) and participants’ drawing and  labelling of these during a discussion on marriage customs and wedding celebrations.

REFLECT literacy programs like ours incorporate critical analysis of customs and traditions and those surrounding marriage, dowry wealth, childbirth and maternal health play a central role in this critical analysis.  Here again, child marriage becomes a key issue for discussion.

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A song praising wealthy husbands used for literacy work and critical discussion (translation available shortly) 

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The right to choose your spouse listed among human rights discussed by literacy worker trainees during regular in-house training sessions 

Awareness of the rights of women and children is also central to the REFLECT literacy and development approach and contributes to the empowering of participants who may not have been aware of them before.  

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Data-based research on community issues is also central to REFLECT literacy programs and studies conducted by literacy workers on the prevalence of practices such as child marriage in the communities they serve are invaluable resources for further research and community initiatives.   The research approach advocated by REFLECT closely matches that recommended in MENA-ChildMarriageInMENA-Report.pdf

This is an area that Women’s Education Partnership hopes to extend with our literacy workers over the coming 18 months. 

See pp 97, 98, 99 for Sudan recommendations 

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