High child marriage cases worrisome

By Tracy Tafirenyika

MINISTER of Gender Doreen Sioka is distressed by the increasing numbers of early child marriages especially in marginalised communities found in the Kavango and Kunene regions.

Sioka told Confidente that the numbers of underage girls who are married off for material wealth is worrisome and needs to be given urgent attention.

According to the recently released Namibia Demographic health survey 22 percent of all cases involving child marriages happen in marginalised communities while 15 percent are in metropolitan areas.

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The survey also shows that child marriage statistics stand at: Kavango (39.7 percent), Kunene (24 percent), Zambezi (23.8 percent), Omaheke (23 percent) and Otjozondjupa (22.6 percent), while Oshana region has the least number at seven percent of cases recorded countrywide.

So dire is the situation that children as young as 11 and 12 are being married off in some communities in Namibia.

Sioka also expressed dismay at the unavailability of social workers to deal with the scourge of child marriages.

“The social workers for the child marriage victims are not enough and the ministry is currently addressing these issues that is why now there is reduction of the cases. We are currently giving awareness, kids who are facing such challenges have to report the cases to the nearest police station,” she said.

According to the executive director of the Ministry of Gender, Helena Andjamba there are only 83 social workers in the ministry to deal with all cases countrywide.

“The approved structure we have is not enough to provide for services as required by our Childcare and Protection Act. A constituency is having one or two social workers which is not adequate which is unrealistic because if there is a crisis, one person cannot control a lot of cases.

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We have 121 constituencies and there are only 83 social workers which is not good.

“We have a way of educating people on the rights of the child we have a way of advising those kids but we cannot be there at every village and every house which means that teachers and parents should play a role. A child must attend school because it is compulsory, a child must go to the hospital when they are sick. The child must not be beaten, cases must be reported, but we are not going to be the eyes of everywhere.

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We call upon parents and all stakeholders to report the cases if there are any.

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We want to tell people that a child is an investment; invest in a child so that those kids won’t go to the streets. It takes a few years to invest in a child,” she said.