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ADHOC pursues project to tackle child marriage

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A woman participates in an education session on the impact of child marriage in Mondulkiri province on May 28. ADHOC

ADHOC pursues project to tackle child marriage

Rights group ADHOC is continuing to implement a project in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces aimed at educating the public about the impact of young marriages after finding that youth marriage rates, especially among indigenous people, remain high.

The “Project to protect and prevent Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM)” – funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – runs from October 1, 2021 to December 10, 2023. The 27-month project aims to educate parents, youth, communities and indigenous people about the impact of young marriage, changes in attitudes toward forced marriage at a young age, and laws concerning marriage.

Meas Saim, ADHOC deputy director of women and children’s rights, told The Post that the project aims to encourage indigenous peoples, especially families with young married boys and girls, to understand why they should not marry too early and drop out of school. They can have physical and mental health problems as well as serious sexual problems.

“We have found that there are serious impacts on health – and social impacts in the future. ADHOC proposed this project to help them, especially indigenous people,” she said. “This project is aimed at changing their mindsets and leading to a comfortable way of life that promotes their own health and that of their society as a whole.”

She added that the reason the project focused only on Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri was because the two provinces had large indigenous populations and high rates of youth marriages.

“When we were conducting our research, we met with girls who were victims. Some of the girls became pregnant and bled to death. Some gave birth to babies but still had health problems and were completely dependent on their parents,” she said. “We see serious future impacts because of this practice, and also note that Cambodian law permits marriage only at the age of 18 or older.”

Mondulkiri provincial information department director Sok Saroeun said the project was a positive one because of the Kingdom’s minimum legal marital age.

“Although our laws stipulate 18, some families agree to let their children marry prematurely. Because they see their children reach puberty, they accept the practise, even though it’s not legal. Speaking overall, our province does not have many people marrying at early age. Now and then, there are some indigenous people who still practice this,” he added.

Ma SieuChhe, programme director of My Village in Mondulkiri province, , said he had trained 330 head youths through the project, who would educate other youths and other families in communes, most of whom are indigenous.

“We have formed youth groups in each village, with 30 youths per village. They are our target. They are not studying and have dropped out of school. We want them to spread the word about the negative impacts of child marriages and early or forced marriage,” he said.

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