United Nations organisation UN Women is supporting women in the Commonwealth country of Mozambique by facilitating access to education and providing agricultural training in farm management techniques, in order to combat the rise in child marriage caused by economic hardship.
In the southern province of Gaza, the UN has supported efforts enabling students, teachers and parents’ associations to end economic and physical violence against girls and women.
In a society where early and forced marriage is prevalent, an ongoing project is setting examples in communities to show that early marriage is not the only way out of poverty.
Ambassadors, health workers and animal health workers are raising awareness of the need for girls to go to school and defend themselves against gender-based violence.
Currently in Mozambique, 48% of girls are married before age 18 and 14% are married before age 15.
Another project, `Expanding Women’s Role in Agricultural Production and Natural Resource Management’, was implemented in 2014 to combat climate change and improve food security in Mozambique.
It provides training and agricultural benefits for rural women and challenges national gender stereotypes that deny equal opportunities for women.
For example, UN Women have supported training delivered by the Mozambican Institute for Agrarian Research, which teaches poultry and livestock farm management techniques to women in rural areas.
Over 200 women from Gaza have benefited from the project, with further economic and socio-cultural benefits filtering out into the wider community.
Three years of the project’s implementation has resulted in many women securing land tenure rights, civil registration and business licenses.
Typically, working with livestock, one of the most valuable assets in the region, was considered a men-only job in Mozambique.
This put Mozambican women at an economic disadvantage and often forced their dependency on a male relative or husband.
Parents married off their young daughters, some just children, in order to have one less mouth to feed.
Abject poverty for the woman and domestic violence often followed.
Climate change has made the situation even worse.
Severe drought has affected more than 2 million people in Mozambique, particularly in the southern and central regions, since 2015.
Crops and cattle suffered extreme losses, with farmers losing up to 98% of their livestock and produce.
This prolonged crisis has impacted livelihoods and household food stocks, increasing the work burden and number of earlier marriages for Mozambican women and girls, who are primarily responsible for managing food and water supplies.
As a result, education and opportunities for these women and girls have been lost.
UN Women is continuing to break this trend by offering educational and agricultural opportunities to women in rural communities.
Ondina da Barca Vieira, UN Women Programme Specialist in Mozambique, said: “It is essential that we understand the relationships between the effects of climate change and the persistence of violence against women, including through harmful socio-cultural practices such as child marriage.
“Integrating these gender issues in our disaster and humanitarian response is about doing our job right.”
Read More: Helen Jones MBE, Director of Youth Affairs and Education Programmes at The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), explores the role of education in preventing child marriage and highlights the part played by the RCS and its partners in building momentum to get the issue onto the agenda of the formal Commonwealth