Graca Machel leads campaign against child marriages
Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s widow and founder of the Graca Machel Trust has said since Tanzania is in the process of reviewing its Constitution, oppressive laws on women and children should also be reviewed and amended.
Tanzania is among 20 leading countries in child marriage cases with statistics showing that for every five girls, two are married below the age of 18.
Speaking in Dar es Salaam during the launch of the National Ending Child Marriage Campaign in Mara Region, Machel noted that since Tanzania at the forefront in the pursuit for independence from colonialists, it should also have the same spirit in the fight against gender violence.
“Although Tanzania is economically poor it must also step up in human rights protection especially this time when the economy is performing well,” Machel said.
She noted that the ongoing constitutional review process is an important opportunity for the nation to rid itself of all oppressive laws on women and girls which facilitate gender based violence.
According to Machel, members of the Constitutional Assembly (CA) have no excuse when it comes to reviewing and changing oppressive gender laws.
“It is time we put away conservative leaders who are elected by citizens and become barriers to positive changes especially on gender issues,” she said.
Retired President Benjamin Mkapa who was in attendance of the launch said girls have constitutional rights that ought to be protected and that leaders must respect and observe girls’ rights.
Sophia Simba, Tanzania’s Minister Community Development, Gender and Children, said that child marriage is a cross-cutting issue and the government in its efforts to fight the vice has been implementing the Maputo Protocol which recognises a child as a person below 18 years.
“The Government has put in place numerous initiatives to save girls and women including the Vision 2015 that incorporates gender equality as a national priority issue,” said Simba. Others are the Child Policy of 2009 and Sexual Offences Special Provision Act (SOSPA) of 1998.
The national ending child marriage campaign is branded ‘Child Marriage Free Zone’ and is initiated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Graca Machel Trust (GMT), Children Dignity Forum (GDF), Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA), Mara region authorities and Mara region Civil Society Organisations.
—Courtesy of the Guardian .