Since 1990, child marriage in Africa has halved among the richest but has remained the same among the poorest. Girls in rural areas and those from the poorest households are “twice as likely to become child brides” than girls from urban areas or the richest households.
‘I tried to kill myself by drinking rat poison’
A Zimbabwean girl, Confidence, recalled how, aged 14, she was forced to marry a 42-year-old man. Her husband married two more wives, who chased her away. When she tried to go back to her family, her aunt and mother turned her away, saying they had already accepted lobola, bride price, from him.
“He used to beat me and shout at me. He refused to let me continue with school. After two years of marriage, life was so difficult for me that I tried to kill myself by drinking rat poison. I was in hospital for one week after which my family finally took me back,” Confidence, now 22, said under condition of anonymity.
She added: “Child marriage ruined my life. Now I do not work and cannot find a job because I stopped going to school.”
Marrying early often means girls drop out of school, are exposed to domestic and sexual violence, and increases serious health risks and death from early pregnancies and HIV, ultimately trapping young girls in poverty. Child marriage is both physically and psychologically damaging.
Child marriage is a practice that needs to go away. We all have key roles to play, as individuals, governments, nonprofits. Speak out for victims!