Young Reporters advocating to put an end to child marriage in Mbandaka

Child marriage is a complex issue in our societies, with devastating effects in the long term, on the life and future of girls. It represents a threat in terms of physical, psychological, sexual and reproductive health.

Unlike other towns in the Democratic Republic of Congo that celebrated the Day of the African Child on June 16th, the Equateur Province commemorated it on June 20th, in Mbandaka, 4 days after the official date.

On this occasion, a one-hour march, stretched over almost a mile, was organized. The event was personally presided over by the Provincial Minister of Children, Families and Gender (CFG), at the Primary School of Bokombodji, where Young Reporters, deaf children, children with disabilities, and pupils in general were gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), themed

“Speeding up efforts together to end Child Marriage in Africa’”.

The march began in front of the Provincial Health Inspection unit, and brought together Young Reporters, United Nations agents, and about 200 pupils from different schools of the Equateur district, all guided by the rhythm of the Kimbanguiste band.

During this walk that lasted more than one hour, the crowd chanted songs against child marriage.

On the marchers’ banners, you could read messages such as “Stop Child Marriage”, “The place of a child is at school, not in a marriage”, and “Premature marriages prevent girls from emancipating”.

When the participants arrived at the Primary School of Bokombodji, the scene was already set. Deaf children, children with disabilities, teachers, reporters that support children, along with a crowd of people interested in the event were present.

The ceremony had two important moments: first, the pupils of Mbandaka peace schools performed several sketches, and then Young Reporters pronounced their plea in front of Her Excellency the Minister of Gender and Spokesperson of the Provincial Government.

The children pled for the Congolese Government to speed up its efforts to end child marriage. They also asked for justice to be delivered to punish parentstwho allow their children to get married before 18 years old.

The event was an ideal moment for Young Reporters to give out their leaflets against premature marriages.

This is why, we, Young Reporters from the town of Mbandaka, took the initiative to go and meet the administrative and political representatives of the province, as well as the Mbandaka Court of Appeal authorities to ask them to take measures aimed at terminating, without delay nor further conditions, the engagements and marriages of children in our province.

Because the place of a child is at school and in his family, and not within a forced marriage.

In response, Jeanine Otoho Makado, Provincial Minister for CFG, Information and communication technologies, and Spokesperson of the Provincial Government, promised to do everything to discourage this practice that keeps developing in Equateur. On this occasion, the political and administrative authorities signed a formal agreement to show their commitment.

Let us underline, finally, that one week after the celebration, Young Reporters went to meet the judiciary, embodied by the First President of the Mbandaka Court of Appeal, with the same goal of ending child marriage, and obtaining severe punishment for the authors of such practices, in compliance with the law.

In response, the President promised to have the law applied all over the province, to severely punish the authors of such practices, and to take disciplinary sanctions against the magistrates that do not fully ensure the legislation.

The President also signed a formal agreement on this occasion.

We, Young Reporters of Mbandaka, thank the representatives of the UNICEF office in Mbandaka for their love and care for us, Children. We would also like to thank our supervisors and the reporters who support children for accompanying us in all our activities. Finally, we would like to thank the Provincial Government through its Ministry of Children, Families and Gender (CFG), as well as the First President of the Court of Appeal who did hear our cry for help and immediately reacted to our concern. We ask other authorities to follow in the same path in order to protect the best interests of children.

©UNICEF NYHQ/2012/Brian Sokol
Kindly translated from French by Anne-Lorraine Meunier

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Ruth I

Ruth a 17 ans, elle est enfant reporter de Mbandaka depuis 2011. La mère de Ruth est elle-même journaliste à la radio, ce qui l’a inspirée à devenir enfant reporter. Ruth étudie la biologie-chimie au complexe scolaire Laborne de Mbandaka. Ruth veut ensuite étudier la médecine et se spécialiser en pédiatrie, pour soigner les petits enfants.

Ruth is 17 years old; she has been a child reporter at Mbandaka since 2011. The mother of Ruth is herself a radio journalist, that which inspired her to become a young reporter. Ruth studied biology and chemistry at the Mbandaka Laborne school complex. Ruth now wants to study medicine and specialize in pediatrics to treat small children.

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