Putting a stop to child marriages

Putting a stop to child marriages

MOHALE’S-HOEK – Mafungwashe Phikanelanga, a 19-year-old, has no doubt her current husband is the life partner she wants. But she regrets the circumstances surrounding their marriage.
They both were still in school and just 17-years-old when they were forced to move in together, a development that cost Phikanelanga part of their future.
An unplanned pregnancy forced her to elope with Quinn Phikanelanga, an Eastern Cape boy who lived with his uncle in Qacha’s Nek town.
“We did not even write our Junior Certificate exam. I was eight months pregnant during the examinations and I could not attend. After all, I had been away from school for five months,” she says.
Her husband was working as a labourer at a construction site in Mohale’s Hoek. He too could not sit for the exams.

“I love my husband and I believe we are a perfect couple. It’s just that we married too early. We could have waited.”
She says the uncle, Mjoli Phikanelanga, was aware that marrying an underage girl is a crime, and therefore he sought consent of the court to marry them.
He took them to Eastern Cape to observe the Xhosa marriage rituals and brought them back to Lesotho, where he is working.

“I advise all youths to avoid sex before marriage because it will put them where I am now. If you love your boyfriend, tell him so and wait until you are mature enough to have sex and marry,” she says.
Mafungwashe and her husband are now living in Ha-Tsolo in Maseru.
She is looking for a job in the textile firms while Quinn is working for a small construction company as a labourer.

It is experiences such as these that Princess Senate is working hard to help Lesotho’s boys and girls avoid.
Last Thursday, Princess Senate engaged in a community dialogue on the outskirts of Mohale’s Hoek in Mpharane to discuss child marriages and ways to root out its main major causes.
Child marriages are rampant in the area.

Princess Senate, the Champion for Ending Child Marriage in Lesotho, said early marriages are not limited to urban areas but are also rife in rural communities.
Princess Senate was inaugurated as a National Champion to end Child Marriage in Lesotho at a ceremony witnessed by her parents – their Majesties King Letsie III and Queen Masenate as well as her siblings Prince Lerotholi and Princess ’Maseeiso April at ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre.

She appealed to national and local leaders to work hard to end child marriages.
‘‘We have to be aware that this occurs at a stage where a girl is still immature to take responsibility of being a mother,” Princess Senate says.
“This is against human rights regardless of whether the boy or the girl is victimised,” she says.

“This affects girls’ education now that they have to find ways of taking care of the family. This practice hinders our country from developing and it leaves it in poverty.’’
She says girls who get into child marriages often blighted their bright futures.
‘‘As children, please give us a chance to grow as children and to enjoy our youthfulness.’’

She called on parents to protect them so that they will grow up peacefully.
‘‘Kindly give us a chance to further our studies because education is the key to a fruitful and bright future and please do not subject us to early marriage.”
She made a call to legislators, guardians, parents and the community at large “to give us this necessary support and protection in order for us to grow as children and not be bargained as objects for early marriage”.

“This practice is an outright violation of human rights. It deprives us of the opportunity to realize our full potential,” she says.
World Vision Director for Advocacy and Justice for Children, ’Maseisa Ntlama, says reports from seven districts in 12 programmes revealed that most children who are married come from Mpharane.

Ntlama could not reveal the statistics, however.
In Lesotho one in every five women was married by age 19.

The 2016 Lesotho Census Report found that 24 percent of women aged 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18.
This places Lesotho among the 13 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) with a child marriage prevalence rate at above 20 percent.
The Ending Child Marriage Campaign was launched in Lesotho in 2017 making Lesotho the 21st African Union country to join the campaign.

The overall purpose for the campaign is to accelerate an end of child marriage in Africa by enhancing continental awareness of the implications of the practice by supporting legal and policy actions in the protection and promotion of human rights.
In 2016, ’Manthabiseng Phohleli, currently Deputy Health Minister, said 1 742 girls were married before they reached 18 years while 1 567 dropped out of school because of teenage pregnancy.
‘‘This left us worried and as a Non-Governmental Organisation that deals with children in particular, to see to it that the child is healthy physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Ntlama says.

“We know very well that a child is not made to engage in early marriage as marriage itself is not designed for children. It is a blessing aimed at grown up people,’’ she says.
‘‘We felt a need to do something about this issue and we are working in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Development and the United Nations Children’s Fund. We decided to visit this place to discuss this matter with the residents themselves.’’

Ntlama says children’s protection is “every Mosotho’s responsibility, children themselves, parents, caregivers, chiefs, leaders.’’
During discussions between Princess Senate and some of the youths and their parents, it became clear that most had no idea of anti-child marriage laws.
Some of the children told the Princess that marriage offered an escape from poverty.

World Vision, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Programme Officer, ’Mankau Tsoamotse, listed some causes of early marriage as cultural beliefs and practices, poverty and body changes.
‘‘Changing of voice, development of breasts and curves doesn’t give one a licence to get married,’’ she says.
UNICEF Child Protection Officer, Lipotso ’Musi says her organisation is all out to end child marriages.

“We will continue with this journey to make sure that among others, child marriage is ended,” she says.
She appealed to village crime prevention committees to include children protection programmes in their work.
Morongoe Makaliana, Mohale’s Hoek police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) officer, said they have a special desk for children’s rights.

‘We do make sure that whoever violates them, pays for it. They are taken to courts and we are guided by the laws within the country,” says Makaliana.
Makaliana informed children that chobeliso, eloping, is illegal.
She also appealed to the Ministry of Social Development to provide more counsellors.

“It will make it easy for children who are abused to be healed and they will be in good position to stand for themselves in the courts of law,” Makaliana said.
‘‘Children, especially you girls, please do not make our job difficult by refusing to return back home, give us evidence and stop saying you are comfortable where you are.”

’Mapule Motsopa

Previous Gospel artist faces rape charge
Next Avert teachers’ strike

About author

You might also like

Business

World Bank to support smallholder farmers

MASERU – THE World Bank has approved US$10 million (about M136 million) from the International Development Association (IDA) to support Lesotho’s ongoing Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP). The money will

News

Thabane disowns fake gazette

MASERU – KING Letsie III never issued a gazette appointing South Africa’s Justice Yvonne Mokgoro as Lesotho’s acting President of the Court of Appeal. This was revealed in a constitutional case

News

Businessman weeps over loss of beef contract

MASERU – Politician and businessman Montšuoe Lethoba once enjoyed a healthy business relationship with the Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF). But now there is so much beef between the two parties that