Notes to broadcasters
Early marriage refers to any union in which one or both partners are under the age of 18. Forced marriage is defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the union of two persons, one of whom has not given free and full consent to the marriage. Forced marriage can concern people of any age. On the other hand, early and forced marriage concerns all child marriages. The young girl is at the centre of these different types of marriage. Thus, in cases of early and/or forced marriage, either the girl is not of age or she does not consent.
Her choices are not considered at all.
These practices are very common in Africa, including in Mali. According to Plan International, every year around the world, more than 12 million girls under the age of 18 are married against their will. Their right to childhood and education is violated and their future prospects are limited. In Mali, 55% of girls are married before the age of 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Two out of three girls become pregnant by the time they are 19, while 20% marry by the time they reach 15.
In this radio script, we talk to four people about early and forced marriage: an expert committed to girls’ rights, a project coordinator who advocates for the promotion of reproductive health, a survivor of early and forced marriage, and the technical director of a community health centre. They will talk about the causes and consequences of early and forced marriage, and some solutions to prevent and eliminate it.
To produce a similar program on the causes and consequences of early and forced marriage, you may wish to use this script as inspiration. If you want to present your own program on early and forced marriage, talk to gender experts and reach out to survivors and stakeholders working in the field. During your interview, you might ask them the following questions:
- What are the possible causes of early and forced marriage?
- What are the consequences for girls?
- Is there any legislation that prohibits the practice?
- What strategies should be implemented to reduce and end early and forced marriage?
Estimated duration of the radio script with music, intro and extro: 30 minutes
FADE UP SIGNATURE TUNE, THEN OUT
Good morning, dear listeners. Our program today is about the causes and consequences of early and forced marriage. To talk about this subject, we have with us today Ms. Coulibaly Mariam Kouyaté, an expert on gender issues and President of the Djiguiya Association of Sébougou in Ségou. We will also talk with Mr. Yacouba Konaté, Coordinator of the NGO Walé in Segou, Ms. Fatoumata Diarra, a survivor of early and forced marriage, and Mr. Souleymane Traoré, Technical Director of the Community Health Centre of Sebougou.
Ms. Kouyate, hello!
The other reason is customary beliefs. The beliefs of some communities in Mali are very conservative. In some places, it is considered customary for a girl to be under her husband’s roof when she has her third menstrual cycle.
In addition, there is gender inequality. In African families, girls generally have a lower status than boys. They are considered a liability and leave the house when they marry. In the village, many parents do not care for the girl in the same way as the boy, especially after she marries. Many families marry off their daughters to avoid having to spend money on them. For these families, a girl’s role is to get married, have children, and do housework.
As an advocacy association for girls, we face all these difficulties on the ground. So we try to approach traditionalists and community leaders in a diplomatic way. We talk to them about the risks and consequences of early and forced marriage. We also suggest solutions to end it.
For survivors, we suggest income-generating activities. We encourage them to participate in our meetings, trainings, and workshops on gender-based violence in order to prevent their children from suffering the same fate. We support them so that they do not feel alone and abandoned, or consider themselves to be the laughingstock of the community. The key method for fighting against this scourge is raising awareness, and sharing information to help change behaviour and attitudes.
I ask girls to be aware that education is an excellent means to fight against early marriage, and that school will enable them to obtain economic opportunities that will promote their independence.
As for boys, they should also be committed to their studies and not be in a hurry to get married, especially before finding a job. This will allow them to meet their personal needs and family needs once they are married.
Yacouba, in your experience, why does a family take their daughter out of school for an early and forced marriage?
Parents’ poverty increases the likelihood of their children getting married through early and forced marriage. Some parents offer their children in marriage for money. Others do it for other kinds of benefits. For example, their son-in-law may give them farmland or lend it to them free. Also, there is the misinterpretation of religion or tradition. For some preachers, a girl should not menstruate three times in her parents’ home. In other words, she should have her third period at her husband’s house. But other religious leaders do not agree with this.
Another reason is to strengthen social cohesion. Marriage is considered a way to strengthen social cohesion in our community. Some parents take advantage of this to give their child in marriage.
Second, trauma because of sexual demands and psychological disorders. The girl is not ready to perform these sexual activities, and she will be afraid because her body and mind are not ready for it. Especially since young boys may measure their sexual strength by the damage they can do to the girl’s genitalia.
Then there is school dropout. When a girl who is in school is given away in marriage, she is very likely to drop out of school. Other consequences include unwanted pregnancies, disagreements between the two families and within the household, the death of the mother or the child during childbirth, and suicide.
Secondly, establishing children’s governments at junior high schools. This helps young girls to attend senior high school without getting engaged by promoting positive behaviours such as studying well.
And finally, financial support for women’s and girls’ groups that conduct income-generating activities helps prevent school dropout and child marriage.
We support them through dedicated groups to borrow money, if needed, to carry out income-generating activities.
Three days after my marriage was announced, I tried to flee with the help of some schoolmates. I tried to go to my aunt’s home in town, but my plan failed. My father’s little brother caught us.
I didn’t even know my husband. I saw him for the first time on the day of the wedding. When I was informed about the marriage, which was later to be the cause of my dropping out of school, I was really discouraged. I had been at the top of my class since elementary school, and when I saw my dreams vanish, all I could think about was leaving this world. Don’t even imagine our wedding night. It was a terrible night, filled with despair and dark memories.
So I followed her advice. As a result, I was able to endure life in what I described as a toxic home. One day, during our meetings, I was able to break the silence and talk about what happened to me. That day, I really broke free of something that had been weighing on my conscience. After that, I decided to end my marriage. It was not easy. I had to face my parents—their retaliation and curses. I was expelled from school. I was kicked out of the house and went to live with my aunt who lives in the city.
It can also cause a rupture of the perineum* or a spontaneous rupture of the uterus. There could be fetal distress, and the unborn child could die. The mother may lose her life if medical staff do not take prompt action.
If there is a complication during delivery, the girl’s vagina may be enlarged to the anus. This is called obstetric fistula. Without a good surgeon to repair this damage, the girl will suffer these consequences for the rest of her life. And sometimes, it may lead to other health problems. Beyond the medical consequences, there are also psychological consequences. The girl may now be afraid to come near people, even her child.
During delivery, the shape and size of the girl’s body influences her belly and may cause the baby’s shoulder to drop or its arm to break. The child may also have a low birth weight, less than 2.5 kg.
The woman’s reproductive system may also be damaged during the first delivery. These complications are due to the girl’s immaturity—her body is not ready to conceive. This requires the mother and child to be taken care of, either at the community health centre, the hospital, or the health and reference hospital.
It should also be noted that complications during pregnancy and childbirth are one of the factors that cause the death of girls aged 15 to 19.
Let’s remember that early and forced marriage is a harmful practice that deprives girls of their childhood and exposes them to violence, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, early, unwanted pregnancy, complications during pregnancy, and potentially, unsafe abortions. Early and forced marriage are major problems that must be addressed.
Thank you for listening and we’ll be back soon with another issue. Until then, please stay well.
Anemia: Depletion of red blood cells (hemoglobin) in the blood.
Fetal distress: Harm to the fetus due to either lack of oxygen or insufficient nutrition. It can occur during pregnancy or at the time of delivery.
Perineum: The area between the genitals and the anus.
Contributed by: Fatoumata Z. Coulibaly, Journalist-Writer in Mali, Segou.
Reviewed by: Fatoumata Djiré, teacher/gender trainer and administrative secretary at CAFO Mali (Coordination des Associations et ONG Féminines du Mali).
Coulibaly Mariam Kouyaté, expert on gender issues and President of the Djiguiya Association of Sébougou-Ségou. Interview conducted in June 2022.
Yacouba Konaté, coordinator of the NGO Walé in Ségou. Interview conducted on June 16, 2022.
Fatoumata Diarra, survivor of early and forced marriage living in the San region. Interview conducted on July 26, 2022.
Souleymane Traoré, Technical Director of the Sébougou Segou Community Health Centre. Interview conducted on June 22, 2022.
This resource was produced through the “HÉRÈ – Bien-être des femmes au Mali” initiative, which aims to improve the well-being of women and girls in terms of sexual and reproductive health and to strengthen the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in the regions of Sikasso, Ségou, Mopti, and the district of Bamako, Mali. The project is implemented by the HÉRÈ – MSI Mali Consortium, in partnership with Farm Radio International (FRI) and Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) with funding from Global Affairs Canada.