Parents’ approval of forced, under-age marriages and general acceptance of domestic violence and corporal punishment are major obstacles to girls in sub-Saharan Africa completing their primary education, new ActionAid research has revealed.
The research found that up to 86% of girls had reported some form of violence against them in the past 12 months, that parents are complicit in under-age marriage and that girls are all too frequently blamed for the violence they experience.
Over 5,000 respondents (including children, parents, teachers, traditional leaders and government authorities) took part in research undertaken in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania as part of two girls’ education projects.
Julie Juma, ActionAid’s Acting Head of Education said: “Girls in all five countries complained about how parents and other figures of authority condoned violence towards them, including physical beating and forced marriage. Complacency at all levels towards the shockingly high rates of violence against girls and the forced marriage of children are major barriers to education and are severely limiting these girls’ opportunities.
"Education is one of the best ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and every child has the right to basic education. ActionAid is working with communities to help reverse the ‘normalisation’ of these harmful practices and we are calling on governments to stamp out forced child marriage and provide effective protective systems for girls."
The study found that male authority over marriage combined with poverty and inequality means that many girls marry before the age of 16, frequently against their will.
Once married, girls are unlikely to return to school due to the weight of household chores and childcare. Husbands may limit their freedom or threaten them with violence if they disobey. And once pregnant, many girls’ hopes for an education come to an end.
The research, carried out by national researchers in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania was co-ordinated by the University of London’s Institute of Education, in collaboration with ActionAid.