By Manase Otsialo
Chiefs in Mandera have rescued a schoolgirl from a planned early marriage, warning the family of dire consequences if the victim drops out of school.
Led by Mr Issak Adawa alias Chief Boraw, the Principal Chief in Mandera County, the administrators warned that action would be taken against the girl’s potential husband.
“The victim is a 16-year-old girl who scored 325 marks in the KCPE and the parents wanted her married instead of continuing with her education,” said Mr Adawa.
The principle chief said his office received a report that there were plans to marry off a schoolgirl and a follow up confirmed the report.
The chief said the victim’s father, however, defended himself saying the girl was only being booked for marriage.
“We were told the girl was being booked for marriage after four years of school, but we are not convinced,” he said.
The principal chief noted that government agencies will take the victim to school.
Among the Somali, a man is allowed to propose to a young lady for future marriage and the girl lives knowing she already has a specific man as her future husband.
“We are working hard to deal with such cultural practices. Our children should go through school uninterrupted,” he said.
Cultural practices, high poverty levels, peer pressure and domestic environment are cited as factors that lead to early marriages in Mandera County.
Gender norms including girls being expected to be virgins before marriage and women bearing many children for their husbands, are also drivers of early marriage in Mandera County.
There is also stigma around women marrying later than the typical age in the community, influencing decisions to marry early.
In Mandera, unmarried women and girls are stigmatised if they are not married before the age of 18, with their families and partners experiencing negative social sanctions.
“A parent with an unmarried girl in his homestead is never respected by his peers. He is considered a failure and cannot be allowed to advise anybody outside his family,” said Ms Abdia Hassan, a local resident.
Gender inequality and limited formal education, particularly for girls, are among norms that encourage and sustain child marriage in Mandera.