In commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child, we bring you articles written by two 17 year-old girls from Shinyanga, Tanzania. One tells her experience of escaping child marriage and the other looks at the causes of child marriage in her community. Both girls attended the Children’s Psychosocial Forum co-hosted by RIATT-ESA in September 2017.
BLOG 1: SCHOOL SAVED ME FROM EARLY MARRIAGE
My story began one day when I was fifteen, and returned home from school to find elderly visitors in secret discussions with my mother, grandmother, and uncles. I later found out that they had agreed on seven cows in exchange for my hand in marriage. The following day I went to school and told the head teacher. She then summoned my family for discussions and later accompanied them to the Village Executive Officer where they signed an agreement not to marry me off. When we got back home, my grandmother reportedto my mother through her mobile phone, as my mother lived in a village some distance from us.
After few weeks, some youth volunteers came in our school for an awareness raising campaign. They educated us on the rights of the child and the effects of child marriage. When theyasked if is anyone we know practices child marriage, I raised my hand and told my story in front of the other pupils. The volunteers promised to come and talk to my family. I went back home and told my grandmother about what I had learnt and asked her to let me continue with my education as it was my right.
My grandmother would not listen and soon sent me away to live my mother where the negotiations for my marriage resumed. Meanwhile, the youth volunteers went back to my school and were told by the head teacher that I had not attended school for two days. They went looking for me at my grandmother’s place but could not find me. My grandmother then called my mother to send me back so I could attend school.
I continued with my studies and prepared for my standard seven national exams. However, my uncles and aunts told me that I should write incorrect answers so that I fail the examination. When I protested, they told me that even if I passed, no-one was going to pay my fees to continue studying. I felt so bad because I have always wanted to work hard and became a teacher.
For now I am waiting for my results and still living with my grandmother. But I am not sure about my future. My relatives still discriminate against me because I refused to get married. My call to all parents around the world, Non-Government Organizations and the Governments is to work closely together to end child marriage because it can prevent a girl from achieving her dreams of becoming a great person in the world.
BLOG 2: CAUSES OF CHILD MARRIAGE IN TANZANIA
POVERTY: Many people in Tanzania, especially in the rural areas are poor, they lack basic needs such as food, clothes and shelter. This may compel parents to marry their daughter so as to benefit from the bride price paid, which in most societies if a herd of cattle or a piece of land.
CONFLICTING LAWS: The marriage laws of 1971 in Tanzania allows a child of 15 years to be married with her parents’ permission if she is not in school. This law gives power to the people who marry children under 18 and thus becomes an obstacle for the people who seek to protect children rights. This goes against the child law of 2009 Act 21 which says “a child is any person who is under 18 years”.
ILLITERACY: People who do not know how to read and write may not understand what children rights, are and what to do when children rights are abused. And most of them do not appreciate the importance of educating a girl. They prioritize that a girl must be married early before she gets pregnant and brings a shame to the family.
CULTURAL TRADITIONS: There are some tribes like Sukuma where during harvesting seasons and other festivals young girls are brought before men to be chosen for marriage. Also some cultural rules allow the children (girls) to be married early as it is believed that marrying a young girl will help a man to have a good family.
FEAR OF REMAINING UNMARRIED: The girls under 18 who are not in school get married because they fear that they may remain unmarried. These girls should be brought back to school or should be educated on the importance of education and also they should be helped financially to ensure that they do not agree to marry young.