International Day of the Girl Child: Tackling Early Marriage

A key pillar of Aidlink’s work is tackling harmful practices and negative social norms that violate the rights of the Girl Child so that she can exercise agency and live free from harm. Beading is a harmful traditional practice in Turkana, signifying that a girl is betrothed or promised for marriage. Girls are often beaded between the age of 9-12. A beaded girl fetches double the dowry of a non-beaded girl. The Girl Child has no say in this decision. In the context of severe and protracted drought in Turkana, many families are reverting to this practice as a way to alleviate poverty.

Girl betrothed for marriage, Turkana, Kenya. Photo credit GCN

“Once these girls have been beaded, their wish to go to school is denied. Instead, they are kept at home and prepared to become wives and take on the challenges that come with marriage. Their parents only see them in terms of how many animals they will bring. Many of our sisters and other girls in our community can never go to school because they have already been beaded by their parents and are waiting to be married off” Cynthia, head girl and member of Rights of Child Club, Turkana.

Rights of Child Clubs (RoC Clubs) form an integral part of Aidlink’s gender and education programmes and aim to tackle early marriage and support and empower the Girl Child. Children are trained to promote and protect child rights and share their knowledge with fellow students, their family members and the wider community in an effort to sensitise them on the Girl Child’s right to education.

RoC club members, Turkana, Kenya. Photo credit GCN

“We speak to our peers in school every day about the benefits of education. Our voices are being heard and we are starting to see girls come back to school. We thank Girl Child Network and Aidlink for the training on our rights and for working with our community”. Simon, member of RoC club.

Every girl deserves the right to live free from harm, to be healthy and happy, to make her own decisions, to go to school and to fully participate in family, cultural and social life. On the International Day of the Girl Child, we reiterate our commitment to tackling harmful practices and negative social norms that violate the rights of the Girl Child and to empowering her to fully realise her human rights.

Girl, Turkana, Kenya. Photo credit GCN