A childhood lost to violence in Guinea
CONAKRY, Guinea, 6 February 2009 – Dyaritaou Bah, 23, was married at the age of 14 to a man who was 30 years older that herself. She was sent from Conakry to live in Europe with her husband, who sent a stipend back to her family every month.
Dyaritaou's story is very common in Guinea, where many parents allow their young daughters to marry in order to improve their economic lives.
"I was born in the capital city of Conakry into a family with four wives and more than 20 children. My mom got married at 13, herself,” Dyaritaou recalled.
Sexual and emotional abuse
From the ages of 14 to 21, Dyaritaou had three pregnancies. However, none of her babies survived at that time because she was being abused. Neither did she have the option of refusing to have sex with her husband. When she refused, she was raped and assaulted.
Her husband also often threatened to send her back to Africa, saying her family would never forgive for leaving the man who was sending them money every month.
Not knowing what to do, the 14-year-old spent seven years enduring severe emotional and physical abuse in an unknown country, far from her home and family.
“I would think about my mom who counted on me to help her improve her life by staying with this very unkind husband, and my dad who also counted on him to send my older brother to Europe for education,” Dyaritaou said.
She said she felt like she had “the pressures of a 40-year-old woman on my shoulders.”
Violence against women
Dyaritaou’s first experience with violence towards women was at the age of eight, when she was a victim of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), another common practice in Guinea. Approximately 96 per cent of women in the country have experienced FGM.
“My grandmother took me to the bush with a woman who had knives and other materials in her bag,” Dyaritaou said. “They put me on the ground… and cut something from me. It hurt so much, I cried my head off for days while others where celebrating my initiation to womanhood – it was just the beginning.”
Now helping others
By the time Diaryatou left her husband at the age of 21, she had lost most of her childhood. She could neither read nor write, nor could she speak any language other than her native tongue, Fulani.
Thankfully, Diaryatou was eventually helped by a social worker women in France, who taught her to write and become literate.
Diaryatou then wrote a book about her life and started a non-governmental organization (NGO) called 'Association Espoir et combats de femmes' to help women who have been victims of sexual violence.
UNICEF Guinea has partnered with several NGOs like Association Guinéenne des Assistantes Sociales (AGUIAS), who works with communities to provide medical care, counselling and safe housing.
AGUIAS has branches in five communities within Conakry, where they provide education and job training to children who have been victims of child trafficking, domestic violence, child abuse, gender-based violence and FGM.
By Fatoumata Thiam Diallo