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Press release: Princess Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides, welcomes Mozambique’s commitment to end child marriage

Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides with H.E. Nazira Abdula, Mozambique Minister of Health. Photo credit: Jane Mingay | Girls Not Brides.

Implementation requires government, donors, UN, civil society organisations, traditional and religious leaders, and youth to work together

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MAPUTO – After a four-day visit to Mozambique, Mabel van Oranje, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, welcomes the Mozambican government’s commitment to end child marriage and its recent launch of the National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Child Marriage. Mabel van Oranje encourages the Government to complete its action plan to implement this Strategy in collaboration with all relevant partners.

“To end child marriage, there must be a multi-sectoral, coordinated approach involving all key stakeholders. This requires involvement from all relevant ministries, particularly the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Interior and Justice. Let’s remember that civil society organisations, donors, religious and traditional leaders, youth activists, girls themselves, and other champions all have unique contributions to make. Mozambique has shown great leadership on this issue, and it has the potential to become a model for other countries in the region and beyond,” said Mabel van Oranje.

Mabel van Oranje acknowledged that ending child marriage will require a series of diverse interventions: “Ending child marriage is neither quick nor easy. It will require the empowerment of girls to make them aware of their rights. It also involves the provision of crucial services to girls, such as education, and sexual and reproductive health. Additionally we need to sensitise families and community leaders about the harmful consequences of child marriage. Laws also need to be harmonised to set 18 as the minimum age of marriage”.

During the visit, Mabel van Oranje met with a range of actors who all have a role to play in efforts to end child marriage in Mozambique, including the Minister of Health; the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare; the Minister of Education; the First Lady of Mozambique; Chair of the Gender and Social Issues Commission at the Mozambican Parliament; representatives from UNICEF; UNFPA; World Bank; representatives from key donor countries; youth activists; girls themselves; and civil society organisations working together to end child marriage under the Coligação para a Eliminação dos Casamentos Prematuros (CECAP) umbrella. Mabel also visited several girls empowerment projects based in Manhiça and Boene districts.

“The Mozambican government has made progress on the issue of by launching their National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Child Marriage. Work needs to begin to ensure that the strategy is backed with funding and resources, including a plan of action outlining how to implement the strategy. Civil society organisations are key players in this. They are the ones who understand the problems and the practical solutions,” said Albino Francisco, Coordinator of CECAP.

On 11 April 2016, Mozambique launched its National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Child Marriage. The strategy was spearheaded by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Affairs in consultation with multiple ministries, international agencies, donor partners, and CECAP.

The strategy contains eight main pillars which are pivotal to ending child marriage in Mozambique, including: a communications and social mobilisation campaign; improving girls’ access to education, as well as sexual and reproductive health services, family planning, and sex education; support for married girls; and reform of the legal framework.

Mozambique also participated in the approval process of the SADC Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Children Already in Marriage, which calls for raising the legal age of marriage to 18. The Model Law will provide guidance to parliamentarians, ministries of justice, policymakers, and other stakeholders in SADC countries as they develop national laws to end child marriage. It was adopted by the SADC Parliament in Swaziland on 3 June 2016.

About child marriage in Mozambique

Although there have been slight decreases in child marriage rates in Mozambique, population growth has meant that the actual number of married girls has increased. Mozambique has the tenth highest rate of child marriage in the world. With a 48% prevalence rate, nearly one in two girls in Mozambique are married before their 18th birthday. Moreover, 14% are married by the age of 15. In Mozambique, according to the current Family Law, the legal age of marriage is age 18, and age 16 with parental consent.

The reasons why child marriage is prevalent vary across the country. While the underlying cause is gender inequality, the common contributing factors are poverty and lack of access to education, as well as traditional practices, particularly in rural areas. The consequences for girls are long lasting and often devastating. Child brides in Mozambique face a wide range of social and health consequences including higher rates of maternal mortality, complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and a higher risk of HIV infection.

For interviews with Mabel van Oranje or Albino Francisco please contact:

  • Mozambique/Portuguese media: Nelcia Tovela, / +258846713047
  • International media: Maryam Mohsin, Communications Officer, Girls Not Brides: / +44 7436 095435