Communities shun child marriage research

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Nuusita Ashipala

Ongwediva-The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is experiencing challenges in compiling data on child marriage, singling out non-compliance from the target communities.

Chief public relations officer in the ministry, Walter Kamaya, said the ministry is struggling because the representative groups do not want to take part in the investigation.

“The predicament that the people on the ground are facing is that people are not willing to give information, either because they feel embarrassed or fear stigmatisation,” said Kamaya.

The gender ministry is conducting a three-month research to compile accurate data and information on child marriage in the country, in pursuit of outlawing harmful practices.

The research will reveal the extent of child marriage as the ministry currently does not have statistics on the cultural practice.

But according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) more than 5,400 children have become wives in Namibia after being married off in traditional ceremonies.

The research will be conducted in regions where child marriage is suspected to be rife and is expected to be completed by end of November.

The Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka, said the research will be utilized to inform the development of evidence-based policies, legal reform, resource mobilization and programming.
Sioka was contributing to the debate on child marriage, which was tabled by PDM Member of Parliament Jennifer van der Heever earlier this month.

Sioka said the aim of the research is to conduct a formative study on child marriage in Kunene, Omusati, Ohangwena, Kavango West and Zambezi, and its relation to HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence.

According to the minister the regions were selected based on HIV prevalence, high teenage pregnancies, and primary and high school dropout and completion rates, amongst other factors.

Furthermore, the research also targets regions with traditional set-ups where early child marriage is likely to take place and regions with a high rate of child marriage, according to the 2013 census data and the inter-censal demographic survey of 2017.

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