With child marriages taking place on a vast scale in Africa, 15-year-old Patience Nare *not real name* was fortunate enough to escape from its snare, thanks to Hand in Hand Zimbabwe.
The form three (3) learner from a Secondary school in Shurugwi district says, she is not ashamed to share her story as she believes this will help other child marriage victims to stand up for their rights.
Child marriages have become an unpleasing trend countrywide as young innocent girls are continuously becoming victims of sexual abuse by sex mongers. In June 2021, Patience had also fallen victim to sexual abuse as she was forced to marry a 25-year-old predator masquerading as a prophet of an apostolic sect which her family members are part of. Unfortunately, her parents who were supposed to protect her chose to secretively comply with the religious demands of their sect.
A prophet from our church visited our homestead to pray for us and while he was praying, he claimed that the spirit had told him to marry me for his prayers to be effective. Helplessly, my parents agreed and I got married to him,” she said.
The once-active Motivated and Entrepreneurial Youth (MEY) Project club member started missing lessons and club sessions as she had become a housewife. This prompted the Hand in Hand Zimbabwe club patrons at the school to thoroughly investigate the matter. Once the patrons discovered that she was a victim of child marriage, they intervened by sensitising her family members about the risks of child marriages and she was brought back home in September 2021. The young girl was then offered counselling and access to health services
“My brothers, uncles, and our MEY club patrons came and took me from the man I had been married to. I then received counselling and I was assisted to get tested for HIV, pregnancy, and STIs. Luckily I did not contract any of the diseases,” she said.
Through support from the MEY junior star club at her Secondary School, Patience has become a happy child once again. with high hopes and aspirations for the future. She has become even more determined to excel academically in order to achieve her dreams.
The rapid growth of the child population in African countries makes it increasingly urgent that countries accelerate their efforts to address child marriage. Ending child marriage is essential to give millions of adolescent girls the opportunity to realize their full potential, while improving maternal and child health.
Girls who marry young often drop out of school and face sexual abuse and physical risks, especially during pregnancy. Due to the social, health and economic impacts of child marriages, the practice is a major obstacle to sustainable development.
*Please note that a pseudonym was used to protect the identity of the young learner*