Becoming a wife and a mother, while still a child – Part 1

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be born a girl — a girl born into poverty versus one born into wealth — and how incredibly different their paths can be.

We've examined in recent posts how gender-based injustice inhibits a girl's chances at getting educationhaving a voice in societyprotecting her own body, and even having life itself.

One common theme I've noticed is choice. Too often, a girl born into poverty (every person born into poverty, really) has very few opportunities to shape her course of life. One major decision over which many have little control is early marriage. Over the next couple of posts, we'll peer into this complex issue; the next post will focus specifically on early marriage in Mozambique.

Here is a graph from The Economist:

In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,
38 percent of young women are married before age 18. 

Underage marriage actually is illegal in many countries. But, as we'll see in the next post, cultural tradition in rural areas often weighs much more than the written law, and girls are the ones who bear the brunt of this burden.

In Bangladesh, about one-third of girls are married by age 15. 

Young girls from impoverished families most often are paired with older (sometimes much older) men who can feed them and provide basic necessities for life. At that instant, they must grow up, leaving childhood behind.

The girls leave school and, essentially, become domestic servants, performing household chores until their bodies can conceive children — when they must quickly switch from being a child to being a mother.

In 2004, the United Nations reported that in Mozambique,
47 percent of girls between ages 15 and 19 were either married,
divorced or widowed.
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Where FH works in Mozambique, rape sometimes is used as a means to secure a wife. We will learn more about this and the wider issue of early marriage in Mozambique from Halkeno Terfasa, one of our amazing FH/Mozambique staff members, in the next post….

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Related posts:

  1. Becoming a wife and a mother, while still a child – Part 2 (Child Brides)
  2. She couldn’t hear her mother’s voice
  3. Bullies couldn’t stop her from succeeding
  4. Why I am passionate about sponsoring children
  5. Child sponsor rejoices in child’s new hope

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