'My husband gives me money, yet I don’t like this marriage!'
By Issa Davies
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 23 November 2011 – Fatu Kamara (name changed), 17, from Marampa Chiefdom, Northern Sierra Leone, sings a lullaby for her baby, five month old Salieu, as she sweeps the veranda of her small hut.
Fatu was in secondary school when she got pregnant by a 45-year-old railway worker from one of the mining companies in her community. As a result, she dropped out of school and her family settled the issue by marrying her to the man.
Fatu had difficulties giving birth. She had to undergo a caesarean section at one of the public hospitals.
“I don’t feel good seeing my friends going to school while I stay home to take care of my baby. My husband usually gives me money, food and clothes, yet I don’t like this marriage!” Fatu lamented.
Child marriage is common in Sierra Leone especially in the rural areas with lower levels of education and income. Although the Sierra Leone Child Rights Act of 2007 prohibits marriages for children under the age of 18, the latest Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey from 2010 shows that 51 per cent of women in the country marry before they reach that age.
UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, is working with the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone to support communities in developing by-laws on the elimination of child marriage. The Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM) complements these efforts through community sensitization, mediation and counseling.
Child marriage and teenage pregnancy are some of the leading causes of girls dropping out of school and eventually leading them into economic hardships.
“I consider my pregnancy a mistake,” Fatu said. “When I wean my baby I will return to my parents and go back to school to complete my education. I don’t want other girls to become victims of such unfortunate circumstances.”
She continues, “I want to be a social worker when I complete my education so I can advise other girls to take their education seriously.”