Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Mauritania Forbids Child Brides

“I refused to marry off my daughter for a simple, good reason: I want my daughter to be empowered,” said Lemeima mint El Hadrami, 49. “I don’t want her to go through the same difficulties I did when I was young.” El Hadrami was married when she was only 13. “I do not want my daughter to experience the same difficulties that I did. I would like her to go as far as possible in her studies, to have a good job – a job that will allow her to enjoy a decent standard of living. She could become a minister, a doctor or a midwife.”

As is often the case for child brides, she became pregnant in adolescence and was forced to drop out of school. She had two daughters, both following difficult pregnancies. Then her husband left them.

“Back then, people didn’t know that child marriage was harmful to a girl’s health. It was a common practice for us,” she recalled. El Hadrami is from Selibabi in southeastern Mauritania, a country where 37 per cent of girls are married off by age 18.

Ending child marriage in Mauritania and other countries in the Sahel, where the median age women and girls marry is 16.6, calls for a change in society’s unwritten rules governing the practice. This means getting buy-in from religious and community leaders on a whole host of related issues, including gender discrimination and ending gender-based violence.
“An immature girl cannot bear a child because she herself is still a child whose body is not ready to carry a baby,” said Telmidy, the imam of the Kuba Mosque in Selibabi, stressing that many adolescent girls in his communities have died for that reason alone.


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