Many girls in rural areas and urban slums experience different forms of discrimination pregnancy, FGM and domestic violence are common problems in Tanzania. Child marriages and early pregnancies affect girl’s education and limit their economic options. Child brides often experience high domestic violence but are not adequately protected by existing laws due to preference for customary laws, Child marriage prevalence in rural areas is 49 percent; some marry earlier than 15 years, the legal marriage age. Associated bride price and girls age increases their risk of violence, girl’s vulnerability and inability to exercise rights. Girls are often pulled out of school; drop out after marriage or pregnancy in spite of the 2003 education policy that imposes penalties on perpetrators. Families fail to seek justice and girls loose defector their entitlements to compulsory education. UN statistics show annually 8000 pregnant girls drop out from school and by 18 years a third of girls are mothers in Tanzania. GBV also increases girls’ vulnerability to HIV. Rorya district now has the second highest HIV prevalence in Tanzania. This situation is compounded by limited support or services for girls especially in rural areas. This is also compounded by taboos on sexual matters and gender entrenched norms and general lack of capacity of agencies.
The motive behind to write this success story on early marriage is to express efforts done by girls club to rescues their fellow girl aged 12 years by then from an early marriage to an old woman commonly known “Nyumba Ntobo” in 2011 . This implies that giving girls chance to express their voices has positive impact to their wellbeing.
Nkemi was born twelve years ago, at ng’ambo village in one of the districts in Tanzania. She is living with her mother and three siblings, in 2011 her father died while she was standard five in Primary school. Since then life has been difficult because her mother could not manage to fulfil her children necessities and they even used to eat one meal in a day. One day an old woman visited their home and had conversation with Nkemi’s mother, according to her she did not pay attention because she thought that was normal neighbours/women talks, thereafter the woman left. After few days one evening Nkemi’s mother called her in her room and she explained to her that she had already been paid money as her bride price so that the following week Nkemi will be married to that woman who visited their house living in the next village, her mother told her that she had to do that in order to get money for sustaining the family, and she insisted that her decision was final.
Nkemi was real shocked with the news, she asked herself many questions “how can my mother make such decisions without my concern, while I’m still in school, at this age not only that but I don’t know how to handle and take care of the so called husband and family , how should I got married with twelve years?”.My mother replied that she was serious and her decision is final either I agree or not. In short my mother forced me to be married to one old woman my responsibility on that marriage was to bear children through having sex with other men. All went as planned by my mother and I got married to that old woman, during my marriage time I experienced a lot of problems as I was forced to have sex with men who paid money to so called husband of mine and because I was young and it was a forceful action I experienced strong pains that affected my private parts even especially when I go to toilet to urinate. Sometimes I blame God “ooh” God why have you taken my father so early, if my father was alive I would not be married at this age, I would be in school, I was always crying and weeping when I saw pupils coming from school, my dream of studying was completely destroyed with my mother for the sake of cows. I kept praying that one day I will be free from this marriage/ jail/. Due to lack of knowledge on human rights especially girl’s rights I did not know if there are organizations like UMATI that advocates for girls rights.
One day when I was on my way to fetch water I meet with my friends who we were at the same school Mkiringo primary school they told me that Bertha do you believe your problem is over and you can return to school, I look at them and ask myself how can it be possible while it has been long time and I don’t have anybody who can stand for my problem and support, They told me that there is one organization called UMATI which has introducing project knows safeguarding girls rights in our ward the project is focusing in challenge harmful practice against girls such as early marriage, early pregnancy etc ,the project has enabled to establish club in our school for purpose of bring girls together both in school and out of school to discuss matters and to provide education on different matters, I had a long discussion with them finally they promised me that they will go to report the incidence to project coordinator of UMATI for further step but they insisted me if you want support I should cooperate and even visit their club.
The issues was reported to the project coordinator, members of girls club, VEO and WEO, women representative (Mama Lameck) who were able to file the case against my mother and my husband, due to leakage of information my husband (old woman) managed to escape early before final judgment, court decided to end my marriage and ordered for my return to school, my mother was punished either to pay penalty or to go to jail for three months, I real thank UMATI for introducing this project and their kindness support during and after my case without them I would not be free and return to school. I return to school last year 2012 and now (2013) I’m in standard seven, I hope my dream will be fulfilled I real acknowledge UMATI and FORWARD for introducing this lovely project in our community it has help girls to recognize their rights but also we are able to make our independent decision on matters related to relationship and marriage.
I am a committed member of our club and we have developed a slogan known as “TOGETHER WE CAN END CHILD MARRIAGE”.