The shocked look on my face is priceless as I’m trying to digest the question that has just been posed to me, “Why are you not married?” What surprises me is not that he asked, I mean he asks rhetoric questions like that at times, I’m in awe because this is the fourth time a human being has asked me this exact question in a space of a week.
First it was that client from work, then that kombi driver, a random guy who stopped me in town and now Fred. I’m puzzled for days, I’m not ready for marriage even saying the M word scares me bollocks.
Why are they asking me this? I’m 22 and fresh out of college and nowhere near the M mentally, in my mind it is a case of child marriage. Its a few days till the day of the African child so mind is skewed that way. My train of thought went to real cases of child marriages and the fact that I thought that it was rare in Zimbabwe due to how our education system is setup so you can imagine my surprise when I found out Zimbabwe actually tops the list with the likes of Mali, Ethopia and Nigeria.
This is how it starts I guess, societal pressure, there is this unspoken consensus that girls should marry young and reproduce otherwise its too late. Do we have an expiry date?? I’m sorry I did not get the memo. This primitive idea that our hierarchy of actualization is marriage, surely that cannot be all.
Family honor has to be preserved through marrying girls at a young age while they are still at a young age before they are messed with, is the general mindset in the cases of child marriages. The teens are having sex, there is an ongoing debate of whether to put condoms in school toilets but is marrying them away a valid answer? For what? Family honor? Family honor for who? Also due to the inflation of lobola men have resorted to marry them young as well. Because if one is to propose to marry me right now I assume he would have to pay back my college tuition as well, the older and learned they are the costlier they are.
Lobola has become a capitalistic institution overnight, these fathers see us as huge investments its no longer a decent tying of family tradition it once was. Poverty is also to blame, most girls leave school early due to chauvinistic ideas that allow men to thrive educationally while women are nurtured domestically thus are left with no alternative than to start their own families too. I often ask myself what a mother in law will be thinking watching a child no different than your own do the chores and perform conjugal duties, doesn’t the heart bleed?
Until I witnessed child marriage first hand in my own family. My grandma was to come to the city to visit us, she stays with my sekuru, my uncle and the little kids thus she is the only grown up female there. She asked a neighboring teen to come do the womanly chores around for the week she was gone. Imagine her surprise when the girl came a month later saying she was back to stay with my uncle as they had been staying as husband and wife that time when Grams was in the city. She tried to tell her to go back because education etc worse she was not pregnant but she wouldn’t listen and her family was encouraging her because they said ours was a good family to marry to.
So now my gogo is younger than me, she is a 1995 kid and this was 4 years ago she wouldn’t go, ugomudii (what to do with her)? So I guess my point is these girls are also planning and plotting worse now with these unemployment pandemic they will ask kuti education yacho inobetserei (how will education help) graduates are at home doing nothing ain’t they?
So one tends to wonder what should happen now to stop this madness prior to the day of the African child. The laws are there but the implementation is 50 shades of grey. The stipulated legal minimum age should be followed strictly. Also it is of utmost importance to educate and empower women about how marriage is not a scapegoat for poverty, kumhunga hakuna ipwa (its hard out there).
Youths nowadays treat the media as the bible, anything they see on TV, hear on the radio, twitter, Facebook etc is credible so there is need to use media as a socialization agent to raise awareness against child marriages.
Also we need men and traditional leaders on our side because love it or hate it we live in a patriarchy and men make the final decisions and if they are against such a ruthless practice there is a huge hope it will die down. It is not a far fetched phenomenon, it is happening right in our societies thus we need to do everything to ensure we accelerate our collective effort to end child marriage in Africa. It begins with us!
Article By FEELING STATION. Follow her on twitter @Rtbrkn