IN many of our communities, marrying off a girl is as easy as counting the head of cattle a prospective suitor is willig to pay; beyond that, nothing else seems to matter. The parents are happy, as are all the relatives from both sides.
This girl who may be a mere child at 14 years of age or less, is presumed to be happy, too, because nobody seeks her opinion in all this; her voice is silent, even irrelevant.
In some of our communities, too, women as a whole suffer in silence because society doesn’t expect her to speak her mind; it’s unbecoming of a woman worthy that title to speak, especially so when it comes to expressing dissenting views against age-old customs.
Needless to say, we’ve come a long way from this discourse and it’s now time the menfolk found time to empathise with their female partners. But nothing still bogs down movement in this direction than in the need to educate the girl child. Given a choice, most parents, even in the so-called enlightened families, would prefer boys over girls.
A national survey conducted among motorists about the plight of child marriages in this country has recommended the initiation of a comprehensive communication strategy to educate the public on our enduring mind – of girls as marriage material rather than equal members not only of this nation, but also of the larger community of nations.
The year-long study is said to have cited poverty as the key driver to several child marriages, alongside other socio-cultural norms and tradition. We would like to add arrogance, feeding on ignorance, as cross-cutting everything else.
Most people taking on school-age kids for brides have the economic and political wherewithal to prevail over poor parents into giving away their daughters into early marriages.
It’s here that the state should come in as ‘surrogate’ parent to provide protection over all children against glaring failures on the part of their biological parents.
A country aspiring to industrialisation with a work-force of ‘children nursing children’ doesn’t add up. Or does it?