Child marriage is a complex issue rooted in poverty, lack of education, cultural norms and gender inequality. Once a girl is married, she is the responsibility of her husband, and therefore some families see child marriage as a way to secure a daughter’s economic future while relieving the financial burden on her family.
Child marriages have devastating consequences on girls at a physical, psychological and social level. They are subjected to sexual abuse, expected to bear children before they are physically ready, and obliged to work long hours in the household.
In the mountain and desert regions girls are married off as early as seven, despite family law reforms in 2004, which raised the minimum age of marriage to 18. According to the reforms, girls can still marry under 18 with the approval of a judge. Alarmingly, the figures of underage marriage in Morocco continue to rise. According to the Ministry of Justice, 15,000 girls were married in 2011. By 2014, the figure had climbed to 35,000.
Fondation YTTO works to educate families about the dangers of child marriage and the negative impacts on the community at large. The organisation provides training and workshops mainly in the Atlas Mountain towns of Midelt, Azilal and Ouarzazate, teaching girls and young mothers to read and write, helping them with professional training and supporting them in income-generating projects. Fondation YTTO has a roving caravan that visits different towns in remote areas. The organisation also offers a rehabilitation programme for girl victims of violence to help reintegrate them in school.
Fondation YTTO’s medical committee provides residents with information on adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health. The social team is on hand to log complaints while the justice committee addresses the residents’ grievances and offers practical legal advice. An arts and culture committee is geared towards children, using paint, drawing, music and poetry to engage them in the discussion on the dangers of child marriage.
Fondation YTTO’s impact has been far reaching. The organisation has directly benefitted 3,500 girls and young women to date.
Photos: Lina Laraki