Today – International Human Rights Day – marks the final day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. All over the world, organizations and individuals have been raising awareness about the ongoing problem of gender-based violence, urgently advocating for its prevention and elimination.
In Inhambane, Mozambique, our project has leant its voice to the 16 Day of Activism through sexual and reproductive health and rights discussions held by youth committees in rural communities. Groups of young girls and boys from 16 different communities in Inhambane province gather monthly to share experiences in safe spaces and learn about issues related to their bodies, their relationships, and their rights and responsibilities regarding sexual and reproductive health.
A major topic of discussion – and concern – is early and forced marriage, and premature pregnancy, for young girls. The youth committees have readily identified early and forced marriage as a violation of girls’ rights and a form of violence that severely limits girls’ educational and life opportunities. Especially as linked to early pregnancy, forced marriage curtails girls’ abilities to promote and protect their own health and places them at higher risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery. The prevalence of gender inequality further exacerbates those risks by often leaving girls’ and women’s voices and decisions unheard. Addressing the problem of early and forced marriage at a range of levels – familial, community, regional, national – remains urgent, therefore, and our youth committees are working hard to do their part.
We applaud all the young people in Mozambique and around the globe who are striving to reverse the epidemic of gender-based violence and make their communities safer places for everyone.