THE Minister of Social Development, ‘Matebatso Doti has appealed to parents to refrain from marrying off their children just to relieve themselves of the burden of fending for them.
Ms Doti said this during a public gathering in Ha – Makoae, in the Quthing district where her ministry was collecting data on beneficiaries of the social assistance grants for the National System for Social Assistance (NISSA).
Ms Doti said organised child marriage was illegal and her ministry was working hard to extend assistance to destitute families to school and feed their children.
“There is a tendency by parents of marrying off their children to well off families because they are struggling to feed and send them to school and that should stop,” Ms Doti.
“Children should be sent to school to get education which will enable them to lead better their lives.”
Ms Doti’s comments come at a time when the government has geared up campaigns to end child marriages in the country.
In October last year, the government launched the African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa.
Even though there is no law that renders child marriage illegal in Lesotho, according the Marriage Act of 1974, the minimum age of marriage is 21-years-old. However, it is almost common practice the girls marry at the age 16 while males marry at 18.
Ms Doti on Friday visited three villages in the Tosing council, in the Quthing district to oversee the different stages of the NISSA data collection for beneficiaries of the government social assistance programmes.
The NISSA programme intends to help the country to have an updated database that would enhance the impact of social protection programmes to reduce vulnerability of the poorest households and strengthening the responsiveness of social assistance programmes during shocks such as drought.
Ms Doti has therefore pleaded with the beneficiaries to provide accurate information so that they can be captured under the right categories, assuring them that they will all benefit from the programme.
“Every person is going to be captured in the system. It is important that you provide the right information. This programme intends to benefit every Mosotho in all their categories of poverty,” Ms Doti said.
The NISSA manager, Setlaba Phalatse, said that programme is targeted at beneficiaries of social assistance programmes, to coordinate the provision of social assistance grants and to monitor and evaluate their impacts.
Mr Phalatse said the programmes was exhaustive in that it targeted every household despite their poverty levels.
“This programme involves three stages which are mobilisation, listing and full survey which include to enumerate every household in every village and lastly the community-based categorisation. It targets all families, poor and well off,” Mr Phalatse said.
NISSA is a single registry or database that was launched in 2010 to help the government with the coordination of social protection programmes, to store socio-economic data for targeting, planning and management of functions such as delivery of social payments, case management, monitoring and evaluation of social assistance programmes such as child grant programme.
The seven-year-old database provides updated information that would help the government and development partners in targeting vulnerable people and help improve coordination of assistance programmes.