Girls as young as eight in Mozambique and Zambia are
forced to go to camps where they are shown how to please
a man in bed in order to prepare them for married life,
activists said at an international conference on ending child
These sexual initiations begin once menstruation starts and
sometimes involve sticks being inserted inside the girls,
Persilia Muianga of international aid agency World Vision
She added that some mothers force young daughters to
sleep with a man in the belief this can bring on
Anglican priest Jackson Jones Katete said initiations in
Zambia happen among girls between the ages of eight and
13, and may involve girls being cut by women for not
performing sexual movements correctly.
“You … pay these (elderly) women to do this torturing to
your child,” he said, adding that men do not want to marry
girls unless they have been initiated.
“Immediately the girls come out of the camp, they are
saying … you are now ready for sex. And then the men
come … and then they begin to do the betrothals.”
The training, which can last a week and is shrouded in
secrecy, also teaches girls about hygiene, domestic duties
and how to conduct themselves in the community, Muianga
said, adding that community leaders fine parents if they do
not take their daughters to the initiations.
Muianga, a child protection expert, said the sexual age of
consent in Mozambique is 12 and many girls have babies
very early, putting their lives at risk.
Serious childbirth injuries such as fistulas are a big problem
because so many girls have babies before their bodies are
ready, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during the
conference in the Moroccan city Casablanca.
Nearly half of girls in Mozambique and more than 40
percent in Zambia are married before they turn 18, even
though child marriage is illegal in both countries.
Bride prices paid to the girl’s family drive early marriage in
poor rural areas, Muianga said.
She said World Vision is training church leaders to tackle
issues around early initiations and child marriage, and will
help develop a similar initiative for Muslim communities.
Katete, who is director of the Anglican Street Children’s
Program in Zambia, said church leaders carry great
authority in his country and have a role to play in
addressing initiations and child marriage with their
He added that keeping girls in school is crucial for fighting
early marriage, but most rural communities do not have
schools nearby and teachers in these regions are usually
men, which sends girls the signal that only boys deserve
“We are now saying that you should build schools in
villages and have female teachers there as well who
can act as role models.”
The 3 day conference ending Thursday is hosted by Girls
Not Brides, a global partnership committed to eradicating
child marriage which affects some 720 million women