Project to end girl child marriage
General Discussion-Girl Child Marriage
I had a focused group discussion with about 6 children who had married before they turned 18 in Chitungwiza. We sought to find issues that either pushed them or pulled them into early marriages and four of them said that they were not forced into marriage but that they met a boy or man, fell in love and started to have unprotected sex and when they realised that they were pregnant they decided to elope. What was evident was that marriage had not been their goal but because they found themselves pregnant they could not continue staying at home, they had to leave school and go and stay with their boyfriend as husband and wife. They said that because of peer pressure, they were indulging in sex at a very early age and since they had no access to either condoms or contraceptives, they ended up getting pregnant.
Some of the challenges these child expectant mothers raised is that they did not feel comfortable going for antenatal clinic because the nurses were rough at them. Some of the nurse would remark, ‘What’s wrong with you, getting pregnant at this age’, as a result, because of the attitude of the nurses they stopped going for antenatal clinic and they all ended up delivering at home.
When further asked about whether they knew there HIV status, the child brides said that when they went for the first time at the antenatal clinic they were tested and hence knew their status. However, when we asked them what could one do if they tested positive while pregnant, it was clear that these girls had no idea about ARV prophylaxis and hence from the way they responded either had not attended antenatal clinic and maybe did not know there status or that they did not understand what the medical staff had told them during counselling.
Two of the participants had different stories to tell. Having come home late one day after a day out with her boy friend, Jane arrived home and was told that her behaviour was not acceptable and she should go back to the man she was with. So Jane was thrown out of the house and went to live with her boyfriend while Terry said that she work up oneday and was told that she was married and that she should get ready as her husband was going to come and pick her. This is when she knew that she was going to be the sixth wife of one of the men at their church. Shortly, a car arrived with some groceries and they took me with them. However, Terrys first marriage did not last because when she got pregnant, she developed complications during delivery and lost her child. She said she now bleeds most of the time and her polygamous husband would not come to her hut so oneday, she decided to leave with another man. Terry says that this man abuses her but she has no choice because she is afraid of going home. The child brides said that marriage was difficult because of a number of reasons. Firstly, the husbands had high expectations on them yet they were still very young and inexperienced. The in-laws on the other hand treated them as in the shona culture, varoora hence also had expectations of them and little did they realise that first and foremost they were dealing with children. So these child brides said that they were overwhelmed and ended up having to cope with abuse from the husbands and the in-laws.
The child brides generally felt that because of their age, it was very difficult for them to deal with the psychological, physical and emotional abuse they had to endure and in many cases they would run away with another man hence two of them were already in their second marriage while one of them was already in her third marriage before they had attained 18. They felt that it was not possible to go back home because parents felt that it was a disgrace in the community to have a divorced daughter the myth being that each time a woman is not with her husband it follows that it is the man who has divorced her. It’s not imaginable that a woman can also opt out of a marriage.
From this focused group discussion, it was evident that in some cases, early marriages were triggered by unplanned pregnancies and forced marriages which parents planned or when a child after coming home late is forced to go away and stay with the boyfriend she was with. Such marriages it was noted were the most difficult ones because the girl in most cases was being imposed on a man who had no interest in marrying them altogether. Among those who were married, they generally found life difficult because, in most cases they suffered abuse from both the husband and the in-laws who did not realise that the bride was too young, immature and still wanting to grow.Read More about the girls testimonies
FILM ON EARLY CHILD MARRIAGES
Africa Women Filmmakers Trust (AWFT) launched a film documenting the challenges associated with child marriages, which is part of a broad strategy to use video communication as a tool to change attitudes and behaviour.
Speaking at the official launch held at Alliance Française, AWFT programmes director Chido Matewa, said their aim was to ensure that society appreciated the pitfalls associated with often traumatic child marriages.
“The film documents some painful traumatic experiences of girls who were married early and we are hoping that communities will learn of the effects of marrying off their girls,” she said.