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Key Issues

Child Marriage

What's at stake?

Child marriage is “Any marriage carried out below the age of 18 years, before the girl is physically, physiologically, and psychologically ready to shoulder the responsibilities of marriage and childbearing.”

According to the data from the National Bureau of Statistics population census of 2012, 21,866,258 million Tanzanian citizens are under the age of 18, which equals a total of 50.1% of the entire population in Tanzania. Of these, 10,943,846 are girls and 10,922,412 are boys. The total number of children under the age of 8 were 11,181,278, equaled 51.5% of all children in Tanzania. Regardless of this obviously large number of young people in Tanzania, children’s rights are not featuring sufficiently high up on the country’s development agenda, and this is occurring despite the fact that children face disproportionate and frequently severely limiting challenges and obstacles to their growth and development. Given that more than half the population of Tanzania is below the age of 18 years old, the violation of children’s rights is a significant problem for Tanzania. Data from the 2010 TDHS indicates that 1 in every 6 girls and young women aged 15 to 19 is married. Child marriage is any marriage carried out below the age of 18 years, before the girl is physically, physiologically, and psychologically ready to shoulder the responsibilities of marriage and childbearing. Child marriage is not only a violation of the child’s rights, but also seriously compromises efforts to reduce gender-based violence, education, poverty and improving their health. Tanzania continues to have one of the highest rates of early child marriages in the world, and occurs more frequently among girls who are less educated, poor and live in rural areas.

Some of the main reasons why it occurs so frequently in rural areas are:

  1. Traditional & cultural customs
  2. Poverty
  3. Weak legislations, law & infrastructure for enforcement
  4. Gender inequality

Consequences of Child Marriage in Tanzania can include:

  1. Domestic & sexual violence
  2. Sexual and reproductive health risks such as teenage pregnancy, maternal and infant health risks, and maternal and infant mortality
  3. Isolation & psychological trauma
  4. Greater exposure to STDs, HIV and AIDS


What we’re doing

To combat the problems of child marriage in Tanzania, CDF conducts:

  1. Campaigns & Community Engagement
  2. Service Provisions
  3. Lobbying & Advocacy
  4. Research & Best Practices
  5. Girls Clubs/Networks & Children Councils
  6. Capacity Development and Empowerment Trainings

Our Success

Our successes are reflected in our continued work we do in a sustainable and meaningful way, in regards to:

  1. 187 Girls and young women have improved livelihoods and confidence in financial decision making
  2. Girls and young women have improved access to SRH and other support services
  3. Over 1,628 girls and young women have reported increased knowledge of SRH issues, their rights, entitlements and services through participating in clubs and networks
  4. 1,130 girls and young women have accessed contraceptives, as well as changing attitudes on gender based violence (GBV)
  5. 1967 girls to date that ran away due to FGM  were rescued and receive support
  6. Over 160 girl are advocates and leaders in their communities through the girls clubs and young women’s network.
  7. More than 3,838 community members including traditional and faith leaders have been made aware of girls’ rights - particularly the harmful effects of FGM, child marriage and GBV. This increases community support, as well as actions to protect girls’ from harmful practices
  8. 475 stakeholders from government, NGOs and CBOs have been sensitized on FGM, child marriage and GBV resulting in an increased coordination and collaborative fight
  9. Strong national and regional partnerships formed at regional and national level result in more coordinated support for the campaign against FGM and child marriage. This has influenced Tanzanian government and UN agencies to take action. A new national campaign involving UNFPA, Graca Machel Trust, Tanzania government and CDF has been launched in Mara region this August
  10. CDF has been recognized as a lead organization and voice on the campaign against child marriage and FGM, and girls’ rights
  11. CDF continues to be consult by international organizations, and shares the project experiences in national and international forums
  12. Girls from the project have the opportunities to share their experiences and raise issues at national and regional level, as well as share their experiences at a number of events including the East Africa Child Marriage Conference in Dar Es Salaam, the Girls Summit in the UK and the high level meeting with the Government key decision makers in Dar Es Salaam.
  13. 13 community mobilization which have reached more than 6,500 people, raising awareness on the effects of child marriage and FGM on girl’s development and society in general
  14. The establishment of the Children & Gender Police desk at police stations has ensured that many children now are able to report cases of violence, mistreatment and abuse
  15. Income generating activities to offer alternative sources of income for girls and young women. Having their own businesses both empowers girls and gives them their own source of income, as well as increases the change of them being self-sufficient in the long run. Examples of businesses set up by girls that have taken part on CDF’s business skills training include: beauty salons, small restaurants, farms and vegetable gardens, tailoring shops and poultry farms

“On average, almost two out of five girls will be married before their 18th birthday.”