Child marriage costs countries billions in lost earnings: World Bank

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Schoolgirls are pictured in Kanda neighbourhood of Accra, Ghana November 27, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Children attend the evening class in Jamestown, Accra, Ghana November 28, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Children attend evening class in Jamestown, Accra, Ghana November 28, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2018

Child marriage costs countries billions in lost earnings: World Bank

  • More than a third of girls in sub-Saharan Africa marry before their 18th birthday, which costs countries billions of dollars in lost earnings
  • Despite growing awareness of the practice, as policy makers met in Ghana a 17-year-old girl in South Sudan was auctioned for marriage on Facebook, causing international outrage

ACCRA: Respect Ruvimbo Topodzi was 15 and walking home from school in her native Zimbabwe when a 22-year-old man asked her out. She turned him down but it was too late.
Her father saw them and assumed they were already together. He told her she had to marry the man and live with him. She dropped out of school and soon became pregnant.
It was only when her husband became abusive that she was allowed back to the family home. Since then, Topodzi has been working to stop other girls having the same experience.
She took on the government to change the law and increase the minimum legal age of consent for marriage from 16 to 18.
“As a mother and survivor of child marriage, I am so passionate about ending child marriage,” she told AFP at a recent conference on the subject in Ghana’s capital Accra.
“I know how it feels to be married early and I know how you handle things in your marriage — that is so difficult.”

According to a new World Bank report, more than a third of girls in sub-Saharan Africa marry before their 18th birthday, which costs countries billions of dollars in lost earnings.
Estimates for 12 countries suggest some $63 billion (55.5 billion euros) is lost because child brides complete fewer years of formal education than their peers who marry later.
Every year of secondary education reduces the likelihood of marrying before the age of 18 by five percent or more, it added in the report, “Educating Girls and Ending Child Marriage.”
West Africa in particular has the highest prevalence of marriage before age 15, and of the top 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world, 18 are in Africa.
Yvette Kathurima Muhia, from the Girls Not Brides organization of more than 1,000 civil society groups working on the issue, said governments and communities need to work together.
Twenty-four countries have launched national strategies to end the practice since the African Union began a campaign to stop child marriage by 2023.
But she said more needed to be done, particularly to keep girls in school by providing free meals, sanitary items and transport.
“Then the families feel they can send the girls to school, where they have support and incentives rather than if they were at home,” she added.

The causes of child marriage are complex and include traditional beliefs, climate change and conflict. But poverty is an underlying factor.
The UN last month said that the drought in western Afghanistan, which has displaced more than 250,000 people, has worsened an already dire humanitarian situation, compelling some families to sell their daughters to pay off debt or buy food.
At least 161 children between the ages of just one month and 16 were sold between July and October, according to Unicef.
Kathurima Muhia, head of Africa engagement at Girls Not Brides, conceded that the AU’s 2023 target to eradicate the practice was “not going to happen,” describing progress so far as “slow-moving.”
As well as addressing policies and legal reforms, social norms must change in communities too, she added.
At the same time, people need to understand that there are no cultural or religious reasons to marry off young girls, she said.
In September, the marriage of a 15-year-old Malaysian girl to a 44-year-old man sparked anger, two months after a girl aged just 11 was married off to a 41-year-old.
But child marriage is not just an issue in the developing world: in June last year, the US state of New York overhauled legislation that allowed children as young as 14 to get married.
The age of consent to marry there is now 18, putting pressure on other US states to follow suit.

Despite growing awareness of the practice, as policy makers met in Ghana a 17-year-old girl in South Sudan was auctioned for marriage on Facebook, causing international outrage.
The viral post eventually led to the largest dowry ever recorded in the fledgling war-torn nation, with the highest bidder a man three times older than her.
Others bidding included a deputy state governor, according to reports.
Kathurima Muhia said that indicated the scale of the task at hand.
“One of the challenges we are having on the continent is where the policymakers themselves who are supposed to protect the law are the ones who are breaking it and child marriage is a key way of demonstrating that,” she added.


Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

Updated 19 August 2019

Alaska man discovers 50-year-old message in bottle from Russian Navy

  • Then Russian Navy Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko wrote the letter when he was a 36-year-old aboard the Sulak
ANCHORAGE, Alaska: A man discovered a 50-year-old letter in a bottle from the Russian Navy on the shores of western Alaska.
Tyler Ivanoff found the handwritten Russian letter early this month while gathering firewood near Shishmaref about 600 miles (966 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage, television station KTUU reported.
“I was just looking for firewood when I found the bottle,” Tyler Ivanoff said. “When I found the bottle, I had to use a screwdriver to get the message out.”
Ivanoff shared his discovery on Facebook where Russian speakers translated the message to be a greeting from a Cold War Russian sailor dated June 20, 1969. The message included an address and a request for a response from the person who finds it.
Reporters from the state-owned Russian media network, Russia-1, tracked down the original writer, Capt. Anatolii Prokofievich Botsanenko, KTUU reported.
He was skeptical he wrote the note until he saw his signature on the bottom.
“There — exactly!” he exclaimed.
The message was sent while the then 36-year-old was aboard the Sulak, Botsanenko said. Botsanenko shed tears when the Russian television reporter told him the Sulak was sold for scrap in the 1990s.
Botsanenko also showed the reporter some souvenirs from his time on the ship, including the autograph of the wife of a famous Russian spy and Japanese liquor bottles, the latter kept over his wife’s protests.
Ivanoff’s discovery of the bottle was first reported by Nome radio station KNOM.