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.


Solid gold toilet stolen from English stately home

Updated 14 September 2019

Solid gold toilet stolen from English stately home

  • Toilet was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and estimated to be worth around £1 million
  • A 66-year-old man was arrested following the burglary at Blenheim Palace

LONDON: A gang of thieves on Saturday stole an 18-carat gold toilet from Britain’s Blenheim Palace, police said, causing flooding that damaged the world-famous stately home.
The fully-functioning toilet, dubbed “America,” was created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and estimated to be worth around £1 million.
A 66-year-old man was arrested following the burglary, which took place before dawn at the 18th-century estate near Oxford, southern England.
The toilet was one of the star attractions in an exhibition of Cattelan’s works that opened on Thursday at the palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors were able to book time slots to use it — but only for three minutes each, to limit the queues.
More than 100,000 people used the loo during the year it was on display at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
“The offenders broke into the palace overnight and left the scene at about 4.50am (0350 GMT). No-one was injured during the burglary,” police said in a statement.
Detective Inspector Jess Milne of Thames Valley Police said she believed “a group of offenders used at least two vehicles” — and left a mess behind them.
“The piece of art that has been stolen is a high-value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace,” she said.
“Due to the toilet being plumbed into the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding.”
Blenheim Palace said it was “saddened by this extraordinary event, but also relieved no-one was hurt.”
It closed on Saturday but said it would reopen on Sunday.

The palace is home to the 12th duke of Marlborough and his family, and was also the birthplace of British wartime leader Winston Churchill.
The duke’s brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, who founded the Blenheim Art Foundation, said last month he was relaxed about security around the gold toilet.
“It’s not going to be the easiest thing to nick,” he told The Times newspaper.
“Firstly, it’s plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate. So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it.”
He added: “Despite being born with a silver spoon in my mouth I have never had a shit on a golden toilet, so I look forward to it.”
Cattelan, who is known for his provocative art, has previously described the golden toilet as “one-percent art for the 99 percent.”
The Guggenheim had offered the loo on loan to US President Donald Trump, but he declined.
The Italian artist’s exhibition at Blenheim runs until October 27 and includes a taxidermied horse hoisted onto the ceiling of an ornate reception room.
Blenheim has previously hosted exhibitions of work by Ai WeiWei, Yves Klein, Jenny Holzer, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Lawrence Weiner.
Police said they were looking at CCTV footage to help them in the search for the gold toilet, adding that nothing else was believed to have been stolen.