Ayesha’s Cry…My Cry
By Mahlet M. Alemayehu
These are tearful words of a thirteen year old girl – Ayesha.
“I got married when I was 13, I was still going to school and I had a dream of everything good. My mother would beat me whenever I refused marriage; I was finally told that I am about to be wedded the day before my wedding day. I was forced to get married. I got married to a man 20 years older than me. When I got married I was sick and they took me to a hospital. I also wanted to stab myself but my husband stopped me. Many people say, if a girl is 8 years old, she is good for marriage. But I wish if I could finish my education. I was destroyed by early marriage. I found myself with a man who wants his marital rights. They destroyed my life!”
This is the story of fifteen million girls each year, 28 girls every minute, who are married off before the age of 18 as the world continues to force them into becoming women and doing things unbearable for their age both emotionally and physically. We watch them become wives snatched from their play grounds and education; we watch them become mothers at a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and child birth. We watch them suffer with lifelong health complications including fistula until we no longer want to even share a room with them, we watch them become burdened with household responsibilities and rearing children only at the age of 8, 9, 10 while they themselves are children. We watch them get violated and infected and die of HIV AIDS and all this is bestowed upon them as a result of a decision made on their behalf by people they trust the most. These girls are dis-empowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived from their fundamental rights to health education and safety with the social and cultural norms fueling the enormity of the issue.
Ayesha had a dream, a dream that she will get to enjoy her childhood to the fullest, to play as a child, go to school as a child, and grow up like a normal child. When she was forced into being married, her dream died within her. I also have a dream, a dream that hasn’t yet died with hers. I wish to see a world where each one of us here as mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers would no longer sell our girl children for our own benefits in the name of marriage or continue to stand by and watch others while they do the same. I wish to see a world where we care enough to educate the vary many Ayesha’s of our days so they are able to exercise their rights; a world where girls can enjoy a safe environment and experience a normal childhood; a world where we care to talk about Ayesha and get everyone around us to do the same until everyone says Ayesha should not marry! We should come together to facilitate awareness among our leaders and elders and put pressure on our local governmental bodies to make sure that the talks are walked; that they take child marriage seriously and the policies we here are in place are indeed implemented and experienced!
No one should be forced into marriage; even more, no child should be forced into marriage before the age of 18!
The African Centers of Excellence (ACE) for Women's Leadership program is run by the Institute of International Education (IIE) , Ethiopia Office.