Young Tanzanian woman seeks forced marriages ban

Representing the Catholic NGO Maryknoll at a United Nations conference on the status of women, a young Masai woman who recently escaped a forced marriage in Tanzania has called on the international body to work for an end to the practice.

Voice of America reports that Neema Laizer, a Masai who now lives away from her family at an education center in Arusha, was in New York for a conference of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The teenager is in her last year of high school and wants to pursue university studies to become a doctor.

Although Ms Laizer says that attitudes to educating girls in Tanzania are changing, many Masai girls are in remote areas and are not aware of opportunities for education.

She added that information about education is available in magazines and other media but many girls do not know about it because they cannot read and do not have access to the media.

She says few girls get the chance to learn because it is hard to get to an education centre from remote Masai areas, so many of the girls are married as young as six years old and "look after the cows and whatever, but they are not coming to be educated, to go to schools".

According to Ms Laizer, at the moment only ten per cent of Masai girls are being educated and get into professional work.

Although efforts are underway to educate girls, there is still a way to go, she says.

Ms Laizer says she plans to continue her studies at the university level "and to get my job", which is to be a doctor. She adds that even though there are only a few women doctors in Tanzania, "they want to add to their number so that they can become many".

Young Tanzanian Masai Girl at UN: No More Forced Marriage (Voice of America, 14/3/07)

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