Youth advocate stops child marriages in Uganda

Shamim, 20, has become an influential leader in her community and is supporting girls to avoid child marriage, return to school and learn new skills.

Girls in Shamim’s village are married off as early as 16. “Here people think girls are a source of income,” she says. Shamim herself rejected her father’s decision for her to get married at the age of 16.

In 2016 she took part in a discussion organised for out of school children through Plan International’s Girls Advocacy Alliance, funded by Plan International Netherlands. After 2 weeks of training on how to end child marriage, Shamim became a community volunteer. With the support of the local authorities and Plan International she uses local radio stations to carry out awareness raising sessions on the dangers of child marriage.

Stopping child marriages

“In 2017, we stopped a child marriage where 10 kg of dried cassava was being exchanged of the little girl,” says Shamim. 

Here people think girls are a source of income.

She adds that in the past, local leaders used to officiate at child marriage ceremonies, but this has since changed and they are now working as part of the movement to end the practice.

Shamim has supported 30 young mothers and 12 out of school girls return to formal education in the neighbouring primary and secondary schools so far. “Sometimes I have to visit a single home 3 times to convince the parents or husbands of young mothers to take back the girls to school,” she says.

Girls look towards a brighter future

She notes that the girls are performing well after going back to school. She says, “Among the child mothers who returned to school, 3 of them recently completed primary leaving examinations and scored between 10 to 15 aggregates. The girls have now joined senior school.”

During the 2 and half years of her voluntary work, Shamim has learnt that most of the girls were becoming child brides because they lacked education, skills and economic support. In 2018, with the support of local authorities and Plan international, Shamim started vocational training sessions for young mothers and out of school children. In January, 2019 the institution celebrated a graduation of 60 students (48 girls and 12 boys) with vocational skills including bakery, tailoring, hair dressing, decorating and motor vehicle mechanics.