By Leovigildo Pedro

“Dear mom and dad, we are very much aware of the tough society that we are living in lately: the tough struggles you have to go through to make ends meet among other needs you may have to look after for the sake of your children, particular[ily] ours, as girl children. But we must remind you that marrying us off shouldn’t even be a solution to consider,”

– Cátia Uamusse; 16 years old; National Girls’ Conference.

The National Girls’ Conference held in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, is an effort of different non-governmental organizations, including World Vision Mozambique, to lower the number of child brides. The hope is to remove Mozambique from the top 10 countries with highest rates of early marriage in the world. Representatives from nearly all of Mozambique’s 11 provinces, including the Nampula, Zambezia, and Gaza provinces, where most early marriages occur, were present to demand action from society.

For many girls around the world, early marriage, child labor, and other forms of child violence can feel inescapable. These issues inhibit children from getting an education and can put them at risk of exploitive or dangerous environments. If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64% according to UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report of 2013-14.

During the conference, World Vision shared the experience of a pilot project implemented in Mozambique’s Gaza province aimed at promoting the well-being of girl children through financial savings. The project brought two girls to the meeting whose communities have benefited from the initiative. They shared with the audience how the project was helping protect them from child marriage.

“We have a group composed of nearly 20 teenagers. We get together and save; whoever wants can borrow some money to invest … With the profits, I cover my school expenses, and I take care of myself,” said Nilza Matusse, 16 years old.

Along with promoting savings accounts, encouraging girls to continue with their studies, and emphasizing the need to postpone marriage and avoid early pregnancies, the project worked with the communities to share the benefits of educating girls.

The conference ended with a declaration that civil society organizations, including World Vision Mozambique, will advocate to government authorities and responsible entities to prevent sexual harassment from teachers to girls at schools, respect girls’ decisions within the family, and share the benefits of the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

“[As it stands, our bodies are] our parents’ who decide when it’s time for our bodies to mother a child … we demand change now,” said Cátia as the audience mostly composed of girls cheered and applauded.

Join these girls advocating for children to play, go to school, and have a childhood. Ask our U.S. Congress to support funding programs that work to end child labor through taking a holistic approach by making a call today!

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Photo: “As girl children, we face a number of challenges, out there we have to hide from those that seeking to do us harm, it wouldn’t be fair to do same at home only to escape early marriage,” said Cátia. © 2015 World Vision/ photo by Persilia Muianga

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