Child marriages exemplify how the world's poorest girls bear the heaviest burden of disadvantages - especially those living in marginalised communities and rural areas.
Prof Deirdre Byrne, at the Unisa-Africa Girl Development Programme speaks to 702 host Azania Mosaka about the Community survey 2016 results released by Statistics South Africa.
The stats indicate that over 91 000 girls in South Africa between the ages of 12 and 17 are married, divorced, separated, widowed or living with a partner as husband and wife, with the latter forming the majority of the group.
She says that in some instances, these young girls go into such marriages willingly.
Byrne adds that underage marriages occur where extreme poverty is prevalent and families are willing to accept money in exchange for their daughters.
The greatest number of these girls are found in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.— Prof Deirdre Byrne, Chairperson at Unisa-Africa Girl Development Programme
Byrne further explains that this is a multifaceted problem adding that patriarchy plays a huge role, which is embedded in cultures.
She goes on to say underage marriages are a toxic combination of regressive gender norms that make families regard daughters as sources of revenue, instead of as treasured family members.
In terms of patriarchy, families do not typically value daughters as much as they value their sons. They value sons as people who are going to bring money into the family. They don't spend time investing in their daughters.— Prof Deirdre Byrne, Chairperson at Unisa-Africa Girl Development Programme
Girls who enter marriage as minors are not going to finish school or extricate themselves from the cycle of poverty says Byrne, which result in further problems.
She adds that in order to end this cycle and address the problem, a multi-faceted approach is required, one that would ensure illegal marriages are firmly and vigorously prosecuted and annulled and addition, and send these young girls back to school.
Listen to the full interview in the clip below: