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Law is only one of the steps to ending child marriage, says Rebeca Gyumi founder of Msichana Initiative Tanzania

Last week, the Girls Not Brides secretariat welcomed social activist and co-founder of The Msichana Initiative, Rebeca Gyumi, to London to learn more about her work to end child marriage in Tanzania.

Earlier this year, Rebeca petitioned the High Court of Tanzania to outlaw child marriage. The law as it stood ruled that girls could marry as young as 14 years old but the legal marriage age for boys was 18. This discriminatory law was perpetuating the oppression of girls and women and fostering inequality, so Rebeca was thrilled when in July the High Court ruled it unconstitutional.

During Rebeca’s visit to London, she was keen to make clear that this decision was only the very first step towards marital and gender equality in Tanzania. “Change is a process” she said speaking to Reuters, Devex and CNN. She highlighted the need for grassroots implementation that focuses on community-engagement and implements the law in the smallest unit of society: the family. Rebeca was excited that the High Court’s decision had elevated the discussion on child marriage and emphasised the importance of civil society commitment.

These are not just words from Rebeca: her organisation, The Msichana Initiative, has this week begun the first of many programmes in Dodoma, a region with one of the highest incidences of child marriage. These programmes will encompass a three-fold approach to changing community attitudes about child marriage:

  • The ‘Msichana café’ will engage with elders and parents about the dangers and wrongs of child marriage.
  • The ‘Roadshow’ programme will take music, dance and theatre on to the streets to involve entire families in ending child marriage.
  • Rebeca and her team are also to be featured on local radio shows raising awareness about why it is important to end the practice.

Msichana Initiative hope that by engaging at such a grassroots level they can change attitudes about child marriage in Tanzania and inspire communities to invest in the girls beyond marriage and motherhood. Rebeca firmly believes that Tanzania is ready to empower the next generation of girls to make their own choices, and unleash their potential.

Girls Not Brides would like to thank Rebeca for her visit and wish Msichana Inititative all the best with their community-engagement programmes across Tanzania.