• Between May and July, Sauti Ya Wanawake in partnership with Equality Now organisation rescued four girls of age 15 and 16 from marriage.
• For the two cases, the girls had stayed in marriages for less than 14 days before their husbands dumped them.
Competition for fancy weddings has been termed to be a major contribution to early marriages in Kwale county, activists say.
Sauti ya Wanawake chair Mwanakombo Jerumani said a huge percentage of parents would hasten to marry off young girls to show off.
Between May and July, Sauti Ya Wanawake - in partnership with Equality Now - rescued four girls aged 15 and 16 from marriage.
Jerumani said most women in the area form 'wedding merry-go-round' unions and organise expensive and colourful weddings.
“If a neighbour plans a certain wedding then the other family would want to make theirs more decorative than the previous ones,” she said.
She added that parents would also want to experience and receive back the gifts they once donated to friends on weddings.
Jerumani said once a girl is defiled or impregnated, the parents forcefully marry them off to hide the families from shame.
She said among the four cases, two of them were parents who had consented to the marriage simply because they fear friends will laugh at them.
The activist said parents normally run to seek justice when the deal goes wrong.
“Often times families solve the matter outside courts, wholeheartedly give out their daughters to men but when things don’t go according to expectations, they look for legal assistance,” she said.
For the two cases, the girls had stayed in marriages for less than 14 days before their husbands dumped them.
Jerumani said in several cases parents are not moved that their children’s lives have been destroyed and always complain about the culprit escaping from the responsibilities.
She said it is a habit that has psychologically affected the girls.
According to her, most adolescent girls in Kwale think it is fashionable to get married regardless of the age or educational status they have achieved.
Jerumani also cited poor parental guidance.
“Reports reach guardians that their daughters or sons have been seen with someone but ignorance is at a high level,” she said.
Jerumani said the Covid-19 pandemic and government directives are what is holding back people from doing open weddings but before the virus, weekends were full of colourful marriage parties.
Paralegal Omariba Harun said there is a need for parents to advise teens.
He said early marriage are prospering especially in remote areas of Kinango and Lunga Lunga subcounties.
Harun said technology must be limited to protect them from malicious people.
“We are actually destroying teens when we buy them expensive phones and other social media gadgets, through such things they interact with many individuals and organise for dates,” Harun said.
Edited by R.Wamochie