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Underage Tanzanian girls married off for cows

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  • It’s illegal for underage girls to marry in Tanzania.
  • Some parents in Tanzanian villages still marry off daughters as young as 12 or 13 years old.
  • In exchange, families receive cows, which they often consider more valuable than their daughters.
  • The new husbands also take financial responsibility for their brides from their parents.
  • Local authorities and activists often break up weddings to prevent child marriages.
  • The rescued ‘brides’ are taken to a shelter, where they receive schooling.
  • Activists are trying to convince parents that, with an education, their daughters will be more valuable to them than a few cows.

In Tanzania, it’s illegal for underage girls to marry.

Nevertheless, some families marry off daughters as young as 12 or 13 years old.

Early marriages are advantageous for parents, as responsibility for taking care of their daughters is passed to their new husbands.

The brides’ family also receives cows in exchange. Cows are a staple of Tanzanian village life, and some parents consider them more valuable than their own daughters.

Local authorities and activists often interrupt weddings involving underage girls to prevent child marriages.

The rescued ‘brides’ are taken to a shelter, where they receive schooling. For many, it’s the first time in their lives they’ve been in a classroom.

Families who hope to marry off their daughters early don’t send them to school, as they believe an educated wife is likely to be opinionated and disobedient – so she won’t be worth as many cows.

Many girls here, such as Kristina and Agness, both 13, were saved from marrying older men during their weddings.

Sixteen-year-old Leokodia escaped her husband after years of abuse. 

Numerous parents and grooms have either been imprisoned or are on the run.

Paulo, a local activist, is working to prevent this kind of tragic situation.

His mission is to convince parents that their daughters can be more useful to them when educated.

With a good education, the girls can get good jobs instead of being traded for a few cows when young.

His own daughter is a good example of this. She received an education and now works and helps her father financially.

The husband and parents of underage brides face up to 30 years in prison.

For a more in depth look at the Tanzania’s child-bride tradition, watch Bride Trade  on RTD.