The campaign, held under the slogan of “her marriage before 18 ruins her life,” lasts until the end of July and aims to raise awareness in governorates across the country of the social, health and legal impacts of child marriage on minor girls.
The campaign is part of the Waai Programme for Community Development launched by the ministry and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in February 2020.
The programme fights child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) and covers health and education issues, rights of persons with disabilities, and economic empowerment of marginalised families.
Million of families targeted
The campaign has been carried out in various governorates since its launch last year with the participation of a number of civil society groups, most recently in Gharbiya governorate.
The campaign targets families with children of ages ranging from 12 to 18-years-old and who are part of the social protection programme Takaful w Karama, which includes around 1.4 million families.
The Takaful w Karama programme conditions its cash support to families on the requirement that they do not marry any members under 18-years-old.
In addition, the campaign also targets villages included in Haya Karima (Decent Life) initiative, which includes up to 4.1 million families nationwide.
Illegal, dangerous phenomenon
The campaign aims to mobilise public opinion against child marriage and raise awareness among targeted families of its dangers, including depriving parents of their civil and social rights.
This is in addition to the health dangers that married minor girls face during pregnancy and delivery.
The campaign also seeks to explain the link between child marriage, population growth, and increased economic and social burden on families and state and to shape public opinion to criminalise child marriage in Egypt.
The marriage of a girl under 18 is a crime and a form of human trafficking, Maha El-Hefnawy, undersecretary of the social solidarity ministry in Ismailia, said during the seminar in Ismailia late on Thursday.
Egyptian law does not allow the issuance of marriage certificates to anyone under the age of 18.
In cases when husbands die, their underage wives – who do not own marriage certificates – often have to resort to other dubious actions like forging a birth certificate to say her child is the offspring of her own parents, El-Hefnawy said.
A number of women from the village as well as social pioneers, professors at Suez Canal University, religious scholars, and professors of obstetrics and gynaecology attended the seminar.
The seminar also touched on the health risks of underage marriage, saying that minors are 20 percent more vulnerable to recurrent miscarriage, hypertension, and eclampsia during pregnancy than a 20-year-old women, the ministry said, citing data by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In addition, deaths increase among women married before 18 years of age, the ministry said, noting that the second highest cause of death among girls aged between 15 to 19 are complications resulting from pregnancy.
Competition, other efforts
Under the campaign, the ministry holds a daily competition with a prize worth EGP 1,000 for one winner per day with competitors required to answer questions about health, educational, social, and legal dangers of child marriage.
Participants can enter the competition by sending an SMS with the word “شارك” via 1442 for free.
The ministry’s digital platform also sends daily informative messages on child marriage for the families covered by Takaful w Karama and other social protection programmes.
This is in addition to the videos and infographs posted by the ministry on its Facebook page that aim to open a societal dialogue on the causes of child marriage and ways to eliminate it.
Under the campaign, social pioneers also make field visits to the targeted families to shed light on the dangers of the social phenomenon.