They can suffer from poverty, sexual and domestic violence, and social stigma.
But a charity, Camfed, which is making efforts to educate victims of this kind of situation, is convinced that education can be the best protection against child marriage.
Camfed is based in Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Ghana and believes that child marriage is a consequence of poverty.
“Most brides have lost one or both parents and are struggling on a daily basis to feed themselves,” says Angeline Murimirwa, executive director of Camfed Africa.
“Older grandparents or other family members do not have the financial means to care for them, and are often pushed to consider marriage as the best option for their daughters.”
In Africa, there are 125 million married children, and 39% of all girls in the sub-Saharan region married before the age of 18.
Although many families believe that child marriage provides a financial benefit, it further exacerbates the situation.
In poor communities, education is more for boys because parents think they are more likely to find work and do not run the same safety risks as girls who travel long distances to school. school.
But this means that families lose the income that could come from girls’ schooling. Women often reinvest their income in their families, paying to educate their children, siblings and loved ones. Thus, an educated girl has the potential to lift her entire family out of poverty.
However, when they get married, it is sometimes the end of their education. Many brides hope that the wedding will be an opportunity to go to school, but they usually end up getting pregnant soon after or are kept at home to do the housework.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 75 per cent of girls begin primary school, but only 8 per cent complete secondary school. According to a Unicef report, the number of married girls will double by 2050 if no action is taken.
Married at 12
According to the BBC, Gloria was 12 years old when her father died, leaving her mother with 10 children to support. Living in one of the poorest provinces of rural Zambia, there were few options available for the family.
“I cried because I was too young to get married,” recalls Gloria. “I did not want to, I did not understand the meaning of marriage, I was so scared.”
After Gloria’s wedding, she stopped school and spent her days looking after the house and looking for work.
Six months after her marriage, Gloria became pregnant and was forced to marry her husband’s brother after the sudden death of her husband. Usually subjected to domestic violence, she had a miscarriage.
A few years later, Gloria became pregnant again, and still carried the baby when her second husband died.
“I had no knowledge of how to give birth to a baby, I gave birth at home, and the neighbors heard me, that’s when they came to help me.”
Like millions of other married children, Gloria suffered from poverty, having left school without any qualifications.
However, luck smiled on him. After hearing about his situation through his alumni network, Camfed came to his aid.
Like Gloria, Camfed had supported Angeline.
“I remember wearing a torn dress in primary school, without shoes and without enough money to eat, I felt guilty when my parents were selling corn to buy school supplies and I was doing the dishes for a teacher just to buy me a pencil, “revealed Angeline.
Born in Zimbabwe, Angeline’s parents could not afford to send her to high school, though she had one of the best exam results in the country.
Camfed chose Angeline for her first support program in Zimbabwe in 1993, and has since risen to become executive director.
The average income of women increases by up to 25% for each year in secondary education, and Camfed’s main goal is to reach the most marginalized girls through education.
So far, the association has helped more than two million girls go to school and is committed to supporting one million more by 2020.
The charity pays tuition fees and provides books, uniforms and health care items, which are often a huge obstacle for rural families, even in countries where secondary education is free.
“We work with communities to prioritize those who need it the most, and these people tend to be young girls,” says Angeline.
“They are the first to drop out of school, the first to be disappointed by the system, they face the dangers of marriage and early pregnancy.”
“Yet, girls’ education has the biggest impact on transformation; educated mothers will educate their sons and daughters, and new paths will open up to women in economic independence and leadership. ”
Gloria is an example of how education can transform a girl’s life. She is now 17 and is preparing to go back to school.
“When I’m done, I’d like to be a doctor,” she said. “The first doctor in my community”.