NAIROBI, Kenya, October 05, 2022 – On World Teachers’ Day, international women’s rights organisation Equality Now is deeply concerned about the high numbers of girls unable to access education within Tanzania. According to a 2021World Bank report, every year at least 120,000 girls drop out of school for reasons including teenage pregnancy and child marriage. The Government of Tanzania has in place a national policy Under Regulation 4 of the Education Act (Expulsion and Exclusion of Pupils from Schools) that outlines circumstances under which students can be permanently expelled from school, and lists entering into wedlock and committing an “offence against morality” as grounds for expulsion.
High rates of child marriage
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2021 reported that almost one in five (19%) of Tanzanian women aged 15 years and older have been or were married before the age of 18 years.
This problem is exacerbated by Tanzania’s Marriage Act of 1971, which allows girls as young as 14 years old to be married with court approval and at 15 years old with parental consent, but prohibits boys from being married before the age of 18. This Act has been challenged successfully in the Tanzanian courts but is yet to be removed from Tanzanian laws. As a result, many girls are wed while still a child and are unable to continue their education due to being married or becoming pregnant.
A court case filed against the Government of Tanzania
In November 2020, Equality Now and our partner in Tanzania filed a joint case at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights against the Government of Tanzania, seeking to overturn the country’s discriminatory policy of permanently expelling pregnant girls from school and banning adolescent mothers from returning to school after giving birth.
Tanzania’s ban limits girls’ right to education and goes against commitments that Tanzania has made in signing up to international and regional laws and treaties. In line with these frameworks, Tanzania is mandated to respect, promote, protect and fulfil the right to education.
Tanzania is a Member State of the African Union which seeks to advance access to education in the continent in its Agenda 2063 through a ten-year Continental Education Strategy that would create change agents to achieve Africa’s sustainable development.
Judy Gitau, the Regional Coordinator of Equality Now’s Africa Office, implores the Government of Tanzania to reform its laws and policies and clearly outline a re-entry policy for pregnant girls and teenage mothers.
She says that instead of addressing child marriage and drivers of teenage pregnancies, the Tanzanian state has adopted a punitive policy of permanently excluding school girls who become pregnant or marry.
The right to education is fundamental and lies at the heart of the development and welfare of the state. This cannot be achieved without ensuring access to education for all girls in order to create a just society and a brighter future for all.
“We await the African Court’s decision on this matter even as we remain hopeful that the Government of Tanzania will take the steps needed to ensure that all girls are free to exercise their right to education and reach their full potential,” states Ms.Gitau.
Notes to editors:
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About Equality Now:
Equality Now is an international non-governmental human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world by combining grassroots activism with international, regional, and national legal advocacy. Our international network of lawyers, activists, and supporters achieve legal and systemic change by holding governments responsible for enacting and enforcing laws and policies that end legal inequality, sexual exploitation, sexual violence, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.