Our campaign against child marriage

Today, June 16 2015, we’re celebrating the Day of the African Child. Let me remind you that this day was so proclaimed following the massacre of children in Soweto, South Africa.

This year, the African Union has chosen a topic that deeply affects the world’s African societies. The title of the topic is “Let’s accelerate efforts to put an end to child marriage”.

Child marriage is a union in which one or both partners is younger than 18 years old. It is a widespread custom in the world, in Africa, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular (DRC).

DRC is one of the world’s countries that has a high rate of child marriage.

Child marriage generally concerns young girls. Given the poverty of some populations, the weight of cultural traditions on families, and the lack of schooling for girls, many parents give in to the pressure. They send their daughters to be married as a result of wanting to conform to customs or out of necessity to receive the much talked about dowry.

Years of struggle go by as mentalities don’t seem to change. As absurd as it may sound, there are, still today in the 21st century, people who deem it sensible to marry their 12, 13 or 14 year-olds to earn money or goods, or to avoid coming under fire of the society’s criticism.

And well, yes, there are many African societies in which women are considered as commodities. Waiting too long to sell these “commodities” carries the risk of being regarded as a disgrace for the young girl and her family.

This practise has many serious physiological and psychological consequences on the child.

This is why we, young reporters, wanted to participate in the African Union’s campaign to end child marriage. This campaign followed a series of activities.

It all started with the Girl Summit that took place in London in July 2014 and in which Merveille and Nathan, also young reporters, participated.

After that, the Youth Forum took place in Kinshasa: it was a workshop that gathered youth together in order to consult them with a view to designing a plan of action to counter child marriage and to come up with ideas to support the campaign.

Only a few days ago, we organised a press conference for journalists to pass the information onto the population about our participation in the campaign.

Carmel, Merveille and Nathan, young reporters who are actively committed to the battle against child marriage, explain their action plan to the press.

Carmel, Merveille and Nathan, young reporters who are actively committed to the battle against child marriage, explain their action plan to the press.

Alongside the campaign, we wanted to go to the field to get a feel of what it’s really like and to gather various opinions among the populations on the subject of child marriage. We identified the root causes of this practise as being the following:

The main reasons for child marriage are economical. When parents don’t have enough money to raise their children or to ensure their schooling, marrying their children is often a tempting alternative. It is more often so in rural and suburban areas.

* On top of the economic aspect, culture also plays a decisive role.

* Parents are encouraged to marry their daughters off when they become pregnant prematurely.

In order to put an end to this huge problem, we would like the campaign against child marriage to reach 3 main target audiences: children themselves, the community, and deciders.

To reach children, we plan to organise several awareness-raising activities in 8 target villages of Kinshasa (BUMBU, KIMBASEKE, KISENSO, MAKALA, MASINA, MONT-NGAFULA, NDILI ET SELEMBAO).

We plan to reach the community through the dissemination of audiovisual material, posters, placards, lapel pins, pamphlets, or video clips such as this one that children from the Youth Forum have put together:

As for reaching the deciders, we’ve planned to organise advocacy events at a national and provincial level and for the administrative authorities. We have already, for instance, devoted an issue of our TV show, La Voix de l’Enfant (children’s voice), to this topic and for which we invited a Government representative and two representatives of the Government’s partner organisations (UNICEF and FNUAP).

Our objectives are as follow:

* At the end of this campaign, every child must have received a minimum amount of information about child marriage. This information must enable them to reject and report the practise.

* The community as a whole is sensitised and is capable of reporting the perpetrators of child marriage and the customs that act in its favour.

* The Government establishes prevention mechanisms and provision of care services to victims of child marriage.

* The Government effectively implements the national and international texts that prohibit marriage before the age of 18 and that DRC has ratified.

Dear readers, for as long as child marriage still exists in DRC, our country will not develop. Do we have to wait much longer? It is clear that we cannot. We have to act as quickly as possible and this campaign is the right opportunity for us to act effectively so that, in the future, there will no longer be any cases of child marriage to talk about.

Just like one of my fellow reporter friends always says: “We, girls, want school and notebooks, not husbands!”

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Carmel a 15 ans et il est enfant reporter de Kinshasa. Cycliste et constructeur de robot, il aime le football et Cristiano Ronaldo. Sa devise? "Malgré les tempêtes, il faut aller de l'avant".

Carmel is 15 years old and is a child reporter from Kinshasa. Carmel is a cyclist, builds robots and likes football and Cristiano Ronaldo. His motto is: ‘Despite the storms, one must move on.’

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