Save the Children Fiji Chief Executive, Shairana Ali. [Photo: Save the Children Fiji]
A girl gets deprived of a lot of important things in life when they get married before turning 18 says Save the Children Fiji Chief Executive, Shairana Ali.
This comment comes as the findings of Fiji’s first-ever Multiple Indicator Survey 2021 show the prevalence of child marriage in the country.
Ali says children are the most vulnerable, and now that Fiji has data on the issue, it must be dealt with thoroughly using the relevant laws and policies.
“It is concerning in a sense that these are very young women and once married, it does have implications on their future. Whether they are able to gain education, so most likely they had dropped out of school at an earlier age. Access to education becomes an issue, and for them to reach their full potential in life.”
According to the Survey, one in 25 women aged 20–24 was first married or in a union before reaching the age of 18, and in the same group of women, none of them were reported married or in union before the age of 15.
It also states that the Northern Division has the highest prevalence of child marriage, with 12% of women aged 20–49 marrying before the age of 18.
Ali says child marriage has not been on the radar of relevant authorities, as cases have not been reported, and awareness is needed on the issue.
“It’s an issue that we feel is not openly discussed as well and there is not that much awareness in communities at the moment, and I think a lot of people in the community are not even aware of the law of the country – when it comes to age of concern for marriage etc.”
Save the Children Fiji has a five-year comprehensive child protection programme that focuses on collective action to end violence against children.
The NGO is working with 20 communities in the Central Division to implement the program.
The Survey is an international household survey programme developed and supported by UNICEF and its partners.