“I was supposed to be in school at the time I got married,” Gloria, now 17, told Camfed. “I was 12 years old when I got married to a 35 year old man. They said that the man would take care of me, my siblings, and my mother, due to the poverty levels.”
“I cried because I was too young to get married,” she continued. “I didn’t want to, I didn’t understand the meaning of marriage, I was filled with fear.”
But Gloria knew that her mother couldn’t afford to feed her, buy clothes for her, or pay her school fees, and she felt that if she refused to get married, she wouldn’t have anywhere else to go.
However, rather than paying the significant dowry that Gloria’s family had hoped for, that her mother could use to support the family, Gloria’s new husband gave her family a single goat.
In her new role as a wife, Gloria stopped going to school, and instead took care of her husband, and searched for small jobs she could do to earn some money. She and her husband struggled to earn enough to eat. But the greatest loss, for Gloria, was her freedom.
As a child bride, Gloria also endured the terror and pain of an unwanted physical relationship. After six months, she discovered she was pregnant.
When she was still pregnant, Gloria’s husband died. After the funeral, his brother and successor to his land and property, married Gloria. In her second marriage, she was often subjected to domestic violence, and she lost her baby. Under threat and oppressed, she felt unable to even seek help following her miscarriage.https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/girl-bridges-share-stories-child-marriage-survivor/
It’s honestly upsetting on how Gloria’s short story displays a variety of issues within child marriages. First off, Gloria was unfortunately married off at a young age due to poverty. Marrying off daughters at an early age can be part of the local culture, caused by poverty. Parents will do what they think is the best for their daughters and what they find necessary in a given cultural, economic or humanitarian context. However, by marrying off young girls, the cycle of poverty continues. Child brides are less likely to receive the education they need to live a healthy and empowered life. Without an education, they are less able to earn an income to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Essentially, child marriage is most definitely not the solution to ending poverty.
Another issue displayed in Gloria’s story is the end to formal education. Girls tend to drop out of school during the preparatory time before the marriage or shortly after. Her new role of wife or mother often comes with the expectation that she will take care of the home, the children and the extended family.
Lastly, Gloria endured abuse of physical, sexual, and psychological violence. Child brides, such Gloria, are more likely to describe their first sexual experience as forced. Due to the age difference and the power dynamics, they often struggle to assert their wishes to their husbands or negotiate safe and consensual sex. They also are often under a lot of pressure from their husbands and families, keeping them from making their own decisions about their lives and bodies.