The plight of young brides de­nied an ed­u­ca­tion

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - This ar­ti­cle orig­i­nally fea­tured on Camfed.org

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.

DOREEN’S STORY

“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.”

MARY’S STORY

“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.”

GLO­RIA’S STORY

“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.”

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