Ending child marriage, addressing gender based sexual violence against girls
Johannesburg, 19 April 2018: Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) is implementing a behaviour change communication project aimed at preventing child marriage in South Africa.
The project, dubbed Ending Child Marriage: Addressing Gender Based Sexual Violence Against Girls is funded by the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos). The project is responding to the fact that child marriage is highly prevalent in South Africa, and there is need for concerted efforts by stakeholders to address this violent practice.
Child marriage is gender-based violence, particularly against girls who suffer disproportionate physical and psychological injury that flows directly from child marriage. Closely related to exposure to physical, emotional and sexual violence, is the likelihood to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Child marriage also exposes girls to emotional and psychological problems associated with early pregnancies, child bearing and motherhood.
To address the social, cultural and economic aspects that influence child marriage, Panos through the project is doing the following:
- Evidence generation: To ensure well informed and evidence-based interventions, Panos commissioned a study to analyse the extent to which the national anti-sexual violence policies address the drivers of child marriages in KwaZulu Natal Province of South Africa. The findings of the study inform the discussions and dialogue for effective strategies to prevent sexual violence and child marriage.
- Creation of platforms for debate: Engagement of the relevant stakeholders from the community to the national level to address the drivers of child marriage is vital. These stakeholders include the traditional leaders who as the custodians of culture, can develop better strategies to address the harmful traditional practices that fuel child marriage. Through interactive radio programmes on promotion and protection of children and women’s rights, the project facilitates broader and positive debate and dialogue to tackle the issues within the agenda of women’s rights and health thereby strengthening advocacy to challenge the exciting cultural and traditional beliefs.
- Media Fellowships: Through training and mentoring of journalists, Panos is supporting investigative media fellowships to generate in-depth content on cases of sexual violence and child marriage, promote debate and dialogue, as well as to highlight child marriage as not only a health issue but also a violation of several women’s rights.
Through the increased awareness on the consequences of child marriage as a form of GBV, Panos believes that there will be a change in the perceptions and attitudes of communities towards promotion and protection of women and girls’ rights, thereby leading to their socio-economic development.
Lilian Saka Kiefer
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa,