CAUSES OF CHILD MARRIAGE Early and forced marriages are largely influenced by cultural beliefs, poverty and societal pressure. It occurs more frequently among girls who are the least educated, poorest and living in rural areas. It is largely due to the unequal power relations between men and women in most African countries, where women and girls often occupy a lower status in society as a result of social and cultural traditions, attitudes, and beliefs fueled by patriarchy. These ingrained cultural practices deny women their rights and stifle their ability to play an equal role in their homes and communities. In African countries, the importance of preserving family ‘honour’ and girls’ virginity is such that parents push their daughters into marriage well before they are ready believing that marriage safeguards against ‘immoral ‘or ‘inappropriate behaviour’. In Africa, most women are relegated to an underclass of domestic and reproductive labour resulting in female poverty, physical seclusion, illiteracy, powerlessness and gender-based violence, which includes female genital cutting, forced marriage and polygamy. In addition, poor homes and families on a low income are inclined to view girls as an economic burden while male children are valued as an asset. Pushing girls out of their homes into early marriage is thought to reduce the economic burden on the family. Again, conflicts, disasters and emergencies increase economic pressures on households and many families that wouldn’t previously have considered early marriage turn to it as a last resort.