The plight of young brides denied an education
THE Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), an international nonprofit organsation tackling poverty and inequality by supporting girls to go to school and succeed, invests in girls and women in the poorest rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where girls face acute disadvantage, and where their empowerment is now transforming communities.
Since 1993, Camfed’s innovative education programmes in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi have directly supported more than 2.6 million learners to attend primary and secondary school, and more than 5 million children have benefited from an improved learning environment.
Awareness around child marriage has increased in recent years, and the practice is recognised as a serious human rights violation, as well as a worldwide problem undermining global development. However, for many, child marriage remains a silent emergency. For every girl whose story is told, and whose voice is heard, there are millions waiting for the world to listen. Child marriage looks different from country to country, and community to community. Therefore, the solutions and ways of addressing this issue must be nuanced and localised.
Three girls from rural Zambia, where Camfed works, bravely shared their stories so you can have an opportunity to better understand how girls who live in extreme poverty become child brides. Doreen, Mary and Gloria (whose names have been changed to protect their identity) hope to protect other girls from going through what they have been through.
“My mom died when I was seven. My dad was killed not long after. We are five in the family. I’m the firstborn. I was 13 when I got married. My husband was 30 years old. It was because of poverty. My grandmother arranged the marriage because she said she was too old to look after us.
“When I asked her about school, she said the same man who will marry you will take you to school. But when I got married, I stopped there and then. I could not continue to go to school because I was supposed to take care of my husband. I was hurt when I discovered I was pregnant, I was too young.
“I used to think that my life would change for the better when I got married, but even the dream that I had that I would take care of my young brothers and sisters turned out to be a myth. I’m just a child. I’m just the way you see me. And I wouldn’t like anyone who is 14 to go through what I have been through.”
“Both my parents are dead. I didn’t want to get married, I was very young. The reason I accepted to get married was that my elder sibling could not manage to look after the seven of us. I hoped life would improve, and that STRIKING junior medical doctors in Zimbabwe, who were scheduled to appear before disciplinary hearings at their respective workplaces on Friday, have disregarded the process, insisting they will turn up only once their demands have been addressed. I would help to take care of my young siblings.
“I was five months’ pregnant when he left and never came back. Even after I had a child he is nowhere to be seen. I was not yet at the age of becoming a mother. If my mother was still alive, I would have been in school. She used to tell me to take care of kids who were in school and that next year I will also start school. If I were in school now, my life would have been different. I may have been employed as a teacher.”
“I am from a family of 10, I am the first-born. My parents were into fishing. If they did not manage to catch fish, we would sleep hungry. When my father passed away, we suffered even more.
“I was supposed to be in school at the time I got married. I was 12 years old when I got married to a 35-year-old man. They said that the man would take care of me, my siblings and my mother, due to the poverty levels.
“I cried because I was too young to get married. I did not want to, I did not understand the meaning of marriage, I was filled with fear. When I was staying with mom I was free to do what I wanted to do. Now in the house I was taken to I was not free. I was scared because he refused for me to do anything, and only he decided what should be done.
“When I was pregnant I felt so much pain because I was not ready to conceive at that age. I had no knowledge of how to deliver a baby. If my child could get an education, his life would be different from mine. When children are kept in school they get educated, and they will reap the benefits. I would like to tell others that when you get married at an early age, things are difficult and you lose all your rights and you suffer a lot.”