Parents in East Africa are reportedly trading their girls for cows and goats in order to survive.
Campaigners against child marriage mentioned South Sudan and Kenya as countries where the trend is rife.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that parents in these countries prefer to trade their daughters. And they do it due to the impact of conflicts and climate change.
Girls for cow in South Sudan
South Sudan is currently embroiled in civil war which has claimed many lives and displaced millions.
An official with charity CARE International in South Sudan, Dorcas Acen told the Reuters Foundation that “The conflicts just worsened the situation.”
She says “Majority of the parents wish to give up their girls and marry them off because of the economic hardship.”
“They are looking at how to reduce the number of mouths they need to feed” Dorcas added.
Dorcas’ organisation is hoping speaking about the new trend will draw attention to the severity of the problem.
“When there is a girl within the family ready to get married, people will come and present the number of cows,” she said
Dorcas reveals that “Basically it’s just bidding – whoever bids with the highest number of cows will take the girl.”
Trend in Kenya
An official of Amref Health Africa, a health charity says in Kenya, many semi-nomadic Maasai and Samburu herders exchange their daughters for livestock.
Millicent Ondigo tells Reuters the practice surged during a severe drought last year that killed large numbers of animals.
“Since the number of goats has decreased, parents rather sell their daughter for four (or) five goats for marriage,” Ondigo was quoted as saying.
Ondigo says efforts are ongoing to convince parents to desist from the practice to protect their daughters.
“(We told parents) when she is done with schooling, she will get a job and she will be able to buy you more than those four goats,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Child Marriage in Africa
Nine countries in Africa rank high on the global list of underage marriages.
In South Sudan, 52 percent of the population engages in child marriage. This is an increase from previous 40 percent in 2010, according to the UN.
The UN says there has been a decline in child marriages. But some 12 million girls under the age of 18 continue are still married off every year.
Many of them drop out of school and are their health impacted negatively.