By Pham Cong Tuan, CWS Vietnam Project Officer.
Recently I joined a workshop my CWS colleagues and I organized to raise community awareness about the risks and prevention of child marriage in Hung My commune. Our leader was Dang Thi Ghen from the commune’s Women’s Union. And, since the topic was a sensitive one for many people, Ghen’s confidence to engage everyone was really important. She put everyone at ease and people started to share information and stories, and to contribute ideas to addressing this issue together.
Chu Thuy Nga was the first to share the hard facts from her village, Rom, where child marriage in common. She cited custom, but also a lack of information in sharing stories of children finishing middle and having parents who wanted them to get married, primarily to add to the family labor pool. Sometimes there is work in the village to add to the family income; sometimes the paid work is far away. Everyone, she said, sees this as acceptable. To make her point, Nga shared the true of Thanh (not her real name) and her 19-year-old son who married a 17-year-old girl who was still in school. Apparently, the girl’s family did not object and soon after the marriage, she quit school and gave birth to a baby. Now, couple has left Rom to work as day laborers elsewhere to earn their living while their baby is left for Thanh to care for.
After her time with Ghen and others who joined the session, Nga noted that she came because she thinks teenagers are just too young to get married. And now that she understands that child marriage illegal, she wants to make sure this fact and other information about the harms of child marriage is shared in Rom. She wants middle and high school students, especially girls, to know how to protect themselves. She wants parents to know too. And her hope is that there are no more cases where young teenagers become parents and have babies that they cannot care for well.
In light of the well knows risks and harm of early marriage in ethnic minority groups in Vietnam, CWS work with education officials, teachers and communities, especially young people, to raise awareness and encourage conversation on this most difficult topic. We are gratified to have strong community allies like Ghen and Nga!
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