In the DRC, almost two in five girls marry as children. Lack of education, poverty and community beliefs all pressure girls into early marriage.
What if radio could change this trend? In communities without access to the internet, TV or even newspapers, radio can be a powerful force for change. These girls are living proof of its impact.
Salama was 15 when she became pregnant and was forced to marry the father of her child. “They made us get married, even though he had cheated on me and he had no home and no job.”
“After our baby was born things were really difficult. We had to ask our parents for money. Sometimes I didn’t eat because my mother-in-law didn’t want to help me, and I couldn’t afford medical care when I was ill.”
Salama asked many times to come home, but her parents refused. When Girls Not Brides member Women for Equal Chances (WEC) visited her local church to talk about child marriage, Salama seized the opportunity to get them to talk to her parents.
“WEC went to my parents and tried to convince them to let me go home.
It turned out that my mother had been listening to their [radio] programme about the consequences of child marriage,” said Salama. “Because of that, they welcomed me back home.”
Salama now uses her experience to help other married girls, and regularly tells her story about WEC’s radio programmes to raise awareness about child marriage.
In South Kivu, Girls Not Brides member Radio Ondese broadcasts 11 hours each day to over 30,000 listeners. Part of their programme covers the impact of child marriage in the community.
"I'm 17 years old and already a mother of two children. I was married when I was 13. My parents insisted that a girl has to marry before the age of 15. I didn't know this would cause so many problems for me and my future.”
“Thanks to Radio Ondese FM's programmes and awareness workshops, I have joined one of its listening clubs.
Now I can share my experience with other girls and help them by warning them about the difficulties of being married before 18.”
The power of radio
Where roads and schools cannot reach a community, radio often can. People with some or no education, people of any social status, age or gender can hear the stories, and research shows that radio and TV can transform people’s attitudes.
Girls Not Brides member Population Media Center (PMC) produces dramas for social change which are broadcast across Africa.
In northern Nigeria, listeners to PMC’s show “Ruwan Dare” were twice as likely as non-listeners to say that a woman should marry after the age of 19. In Senegal, listeners of “Ngelawu Nawet” were 6.3 times more likely than non-listeners to say that a woman should be 18 or older before marriage. While in Niger, “Gobe da Haske” caused listeners to favour girls waiting until age 20 to be married.
In the time it has taken to read this article 32 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds