Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Senegal: A Child Marriage Stopped in Its Tracks

Published Date: 
Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kadidiatou Baldé , a 14 year old girl from Dinguiraye village in Senegal, was in fifth grade when her parents announced that she was to be married to a 24-year man from the local area in April this year.

Child marriage is not uncommon in Senegal.  Although the law states that girls under 16 cannot be married, the President of Regional court may allow marriage below 16.  Underage marriage is a particular problem in rural areas such a Velingara – the province in which Kadidiatou’s village is situated - owing to poverty and low education levels, as well as the lack of registration of many births and marriages.   

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 The negotations in Dinguiraye.  Kadidiatou is pictured in the middle. 

Indeed, Kadidiatou herself was disadvantaged by the fact that her father is dead and her mother and uncles, who she lives with, are poor.  So  when the man asked to marry her, her family accepted as the man comes from a wealthy family and has plans to migrate to Europe.  As is so often the case, the prospect of marriage brought hope to Kadidiatou’s family of a better life for her. 

Nonetheless, Kadidiatou was by no means content with the plans made for her; she was a bright student who wished most of all to continue her education. Many girls in her position would have struggled to oppose the marriage that had been arranged to her.  However, Kadidiatou was lucky that her school had recently made connections with a community group working to end child marriage in Velingara.

The group, APAM (Association pour la Defense des Acquis de Medicos del Mundo), are well known locally and are recognised in the community by their ‘Stop Child Marriage’ T-shirts.  Since August 2013, and the start of WELDD’s activities on child marriage, APAM (a rural partner of GREFELS) has created a strong alliance dedicated to ending child marriage.  APAM have nurtured a dedicated network of advocates and activists committed to the cause. 

The team became well known in the community through their march against child marriage on International Women’s Day – the first time the occasion had been celebrated in Velingara.  The group has managed to engage multiple sectors of local community, including other NGOs, the police, and even the Prefect of Velingara who they managed to bring onside to support the International Women’s Day actions.  APAM has used its alliance with the Guidance Committee on Reproductive Health active in Velingara – which is composed of high school teachers, nurses, midwives, and journalist among other society figures – to maximise the reach of their campaign against child marriage. 

So, when Kadidiatou went to her school master, he knew straight away to contact APAM for them to intervene.   After receiving the alert from the school master, APAM went to speak with Kadidiatou’s family.  Kadidiatou’s mother explained that the family had decided to marry their daughter off in order to preserve the family’s honour; Kadidiatou had been receiving visits from young men in the past month and they worried that this could lead to a damaging of her reputation, and were especially worried about the possibility of pregnancy. 

The APAM representatives, however, reminded Kadidiatou’s mother – and uncles and grandmother who were also present –that it was illegal to marry her daughter off at that age.  They also stressed that marrying Kadidiatou off at this stage would be very detrimental to her health and wellbeing.  The team pointed out Kadidiatou’s academic brilliance and the importance that she stay in school.  On her side, Kadidiatou made a promise to concentrate on her studies and not to spend too much time with boys.  After hours of negotiation, the family agreed to call off the marriage plans and let Kadidiatou continue with her education.

Culturally Justified Violence Against Women