Faouzia Yaya from Cameroon was 14 years old when her father forced her to marry an older man. Soon the marriage became violent. “My husband used to beat me daily,” Faouzia says. Child marriage is widespread in Cameroon, with 22 per cent of girls aged 15–19 already married in 2014. Child brides drop out of school earlier than other children and they are more exposed to violence. Pregnancy at young age involves a higher risk of complications.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) supports the work against child marriage in Cameroon for example through the Association Fighting Violence against Women (ALVF). At the ALVF women’s centre, violence survivors can learn income-generating skills and get information about health and gender equality. Faouzia Yaya is learning tailoring. “I can plan my life with the skills I’ve learned,” she says.
The UNFPA also funds so-called husband’s clubs in Cameroon. They aim to raise men’s awareness of the harms of child marriage and adolescent pregnancies and of the benefits of educating girls. A new law, advocated by the UNFPA, was adopted in Cameroon in July 2016, making forced marriages and child marriages punishable by imprisonment and fine. Finland supports the UNFPA’s work.
Photo: UNFPA Cameroon, graphics: Juho Hiilivirta