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Mozambique, 10 December 2015: Child marriage: “In the end it wasn’t my choice”

© UNICEF Mozambique/2015/Alex Marques
“I wasn't sure in the beginning if I wanted this. In the end it wasn't my decision; everyone convinced me. The family decided this was best,” said Lúcia, 15. In the photo we see Lúcia who is 8 months pregnant and Velasco, 20, her husband to be.

 
As we left the main sealed road outside the city of Inhambane, a 7 hour drive from the capital in Mozambique, Maputo, the dusty, sandy roads narrowed and then completely disappeared. The community leader showed us the way to the tiny villages where we would meet several married teenage girls.

In Mozambique, 48 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18, which has major consequences for these girls’ education, as well as creating a higher risk during pregnancy and childbirth.

We arrived in the first village, Guibombo, where we met Lúcia, 15, and her family.

For Lúcia, it wasn’t her decision to get married. “When Velasco came to the village, his Aunt introduced us. He met with four girls, but chose me and we started a relationship,” says Lúcia. “I wasn't sure in the beginning if I wanted this. In the end it wasn’t my decision; everyone convinced me. The family decided this was best.”

Shortly after Lúcia became pregnant and is now suffering from malaria at 8 months. Early into her pregnancy she was forced to stop school. “I was very, very ill,” explains Lúcia. “The teacher asked me to stay home as I was sick during class.”

Traditionally in Mozambique, a “lobolo” (a form of dowry) is paid by the girl's family when she marries. Lúcia tells us her lobolo is due to be paid next January.

Lúcia hopes to return to school after the birth of her baby, with the support of her parents. She would love to be a teacher. However, the family is unsure how she will be able to continue her schooling when the baby arrives.

The Government Director in Inhambane City, Pascoa Claudino Sumbana Ferrao, explains, “Many families are unaware that when a girl marries young, she is not prepared to be a mother. Often there are issues with her pregnancy, she stops school, and this creates a cycle of illiteracy.”

In the village of Manhique, we meet Sonia, 16, who left her family to move in with her husband's parents this year.

“I was in the ninth grade,” Sonia says, “but after I got married I moved to a new village. My husband, Ihenlano isn’t here right now as he works in South Africa.”

“When I got married I realized I would have to study in the evening but he told me this was too dangerous. So now I get up at 6am, I clean the house, then I clean my mother-in-law’s house and I also work on the farm, where we grow manioc (cassava) and peanuts.”

Sonia tells us her dream is to study and get a job. “I want to work in business,” she says.

UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Ana Maria Machaieie, explains the importance of working at both the community and policy level to address child marriage in Mozambique.

“Child marriage in Mozambique is a complex issue, which requires not only change at the policy level and among community attitudes, but also improvement in education and opportunities for these young girls, so they have an option to continue their studies and are not forced to marry for economic reasons.”

Mozambique has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, affecting almost one in every two girls. It impacts on the health of girls due to adolescent pregnancy, with a higher risk of maternal and child mortality, nutritional status and education.

UNICEF, together with the Government of Mozambique and UNFPA, supports the Global Programme on accelerating action to end child marriage, which promotes changes in community attitudes and behaviour to child marriage, advocates for policy reforms and supports quality education and economic opportunities.

 

 
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