from: joachim omolo ouko
News Dispatch with Father Omolo Beste
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2014
About 500 bishops from around the continent are set to converge in Harare on November 28 for a two-day annual bishop’s conference meant to tackle women and child abuse cases in Africa. Last year it was reported that a young girl from Malawi by the name Grace went under horrible sexual ritual.
She learned she’d be going to a camp with her friends, she was thrilled. Every girl around her age in her southern Malawi village would attend the rite of passage. When she got she was told she is to sleep with a man and get rid of child ‘dust.’ If you don’t do it, your body will get diseased”, she was warned.
A demonstration involved one girl lying down, with one of the older women on top. “You should be dancing and have a man on top of you, making him happy,” she was told. At age 10, Grace was being taught how to have sex.
Like the other girls in the village, Grace had been sent to camp with her family’s blessings. This is because everyone makes sure their child goes to initiation ceremony because you will not be accepted in the community.
The Education Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malawi has released figures indicating that more than 27,000 girls dropped out of primary school in the country between 2010 and 2013 due to early marriages.
The Commission warned that unless the trend is reversed, Malawi would not achieve the Millennium Development Goal on universal primary education by the end of 2015. It went further to say that child marriage remains one of the main obstacles to education for young girls in Malawi where many girls are married before they are 18 years old.
The country’s official minimum marriage age is 15 years. The Education Commission has called upon faith-based communities and traditional leaders to join it in its campaign to have the minimum age raised to 18 years.
The conference which will be mainly made up of apostolic bishops will be held at Belvedere Teacher’s College and is also set to tackle child marriage problems in the region. Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) president Johannes Ndanga, who is co-ordinating the conference, said the gathering will educate and conscientise the bishops on human rights abuses.
The conference that ends on November 29 will be attended by a number of both apostolic and non-apostolic bishops from Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, among other countries. Zimbabwe is adjudged one of the 41 countries in the world with an unacceptable rate of child marriages.
According to a 2012 report based on data collected by UNFPA during the years 2000 to 2011, the country’s prevalence of child marriage, was at 31percent, and was among 41 nations with the highest rates of child marriages.
Zimbabwe sits at number 39. This comes amid fears that if child marriages were not curbed through legislative measures, the figures could escalate with girls continuing to be deprived of their childhood.
Another 2012 United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) report states that if child marriage was not outlawed by countries practising it by 2030, the number of child brides would grow from 14,2 million girls in 2010 to 15,1 million girls in 2030.
Fr Joachim Omolo Ouko, AJ
Tel +254 7350 14559/+254 722 623 578