October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child, and October 25 Tanzania will run Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The presidential elections, in particular, will or will not be the closest ever, depending on which poll one prefers, but one thing is clear: youth matters. According to the 2012 Census, of the close to 45 million people living in Tanzania, 44.1 percent of the population is `young’, under fifteen, and 35.1 percent are `youth’, 15 – 35 years old. 79.2 percent of Tanzanians are young or youthful. The future is now.

Perhaps it’s the young and the restless or the elections, or maybe the prospect of a new constitution which could expand the rights of women and girls, or perhaps reflecting on the International Day of the Girl Child that has Tanzania’s Daily News running a series of articles encouraging its readers to get serious about ending child marriage now.

For a variety of reasons, the rates of `child marriage’ in Tanzania are famously high, although according to some they have been descending slowly over the past decade. Just about every year, a `major’ study reports on the situation of `child marriage’ and `girl-brides’ in Tanzania. In 2013, the Center for Reproductive Rights published Forced Out: Mandatory Pregnancy Testing and the Expulsion of Pregnant Students in Tanzanian Schools, which documented the catastrophic nexus of “forced, early marriage”, “adolescent pregnancy”, and expulsion from school and from all its current and future benefits. Last year, Human Rights Watch published No Way Out: Child Marriage and Human Rights Abuses in Tanzania, and last month, HRW testified, “Although rates of child marriage have decreased, the number of girls marrying remains high. Four out of 10 girls are married before their 18th birthday. Some girls are as young as 7 when they are married.” More recently, the Fordham International Law Journal published, “Ending female genital mutilation & child marriage in Tanzania.”

All three studies, and many more, have relied on the work and insight of Tanzanian organizations, such as the Children’s Dignity Forum; Chama Cha Uzazi na Malezi Bora Tanzania (UMATI); and the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Tanzania. These organizations work with the Tanzania Women Parliamentary Group; the Tanzania Media Women’s Association; the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme; and Tanzania Youth for Change. Many of these groups, in particular the Children’s Dignity Forum, work closely with the Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development (FORWARD), an African Diaspora women’s campaign and support organization. In 2013, FORWARD and the Children’s Dignity Forum co-authored, Voices of Child Brides and Child Mothers in Tanzania: A PEER Report on Child Marriage.

In other words, in Tanzania as elsewhere, women and girls, and some men and boys too, have been researching, mobilizing, advocating, circulating petitions, rewriting laws, organizing peer groups, and raising a ruckus for quite some time. Will this year be the year? The editors of the Daily News seem to think so, as they suggest in a recent editorial, “Yes, child marriages can be stopped.” Will child marriages be stopped as a result of the elections and the incoming president and parliament? Is the time for new approaches finally here? Will this be the year of the girl child in Tanzania? Stay tuned.

Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.