Cape Town – Despite efforts to end child marriages, one in four girls across Sub Saharan Africa is forced into marriage before their 18th birthday, says a human rights group.
In a statement, Human Right Watch senior researcher Agnes Odhiambo said that in various parts of the region, child marriages were mainly driven by high levels of poverty, and cultural beliefs.
She said it was, however, encouraging that African leaders had since put child marriage high on their agenda.
But, despite the efforts, progress on the ground remained stagnant, said Odhiambo.
In a nine minute video posted on the group's website, young girls in Malawi said they were forced into marriage at very tender ages of between 12–15 years old.
One of the girls who were interviewed said she had never been "happy" in her marriage.
"I've never experienced happiness in my marriage. I've never seen the benefit of being married," said the girl was only identified as Chimwemwe said.
Watch the video below.
But, once the teenage girls got married to often older man, their situations worsened, as they were physically, sexually and emotionally abused by their husbands.
A community leader in Maasia, Martha Daud, said that women were often left out when it came to decision making regarding child marriages.
She claimed that one of her daughters was taken from her while she was only 14-year-old.
"She was taken out of school when her father was given cows. We can only stand by and watch. If a man wants to marry his child off, he can just hand her over to a husband. Women don't have the power to disagree with men," said Daud.
This came as a United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) report last year warned that "without the necessary changes" on the ground, child marriages would have doubled by 2050.
The report indicated that at least 17 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage globally were found in sub Saharan Africa.
"At least 76% of girls in Niger and close to 70% of girls in Central African Republic and Chad marry before they turn 18," said the report.
In Malawi, one in every two girls gets married before age 18.