August 17, 2018

The Famine Bride

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By Vera Marion

She was only nine years old. She had a future ahead. In her innocence, the world was only white. There were no shades of black and grey to discolor her beautiful world. She enjoyed school. She enjoyed being with her friends in school. Life was beautiful, with plenty to look forward to.

The sun was a symbol of all that was beautiful in her life. But something started going wrong. The sun shone constantly for months on end. Crops failed. Vegetation withered. Water sources dried up. The earth was thirsty. The earth could not hold anything. The earth was cracked.

Food became rare. Water was scarce. Life was unbearable. She stopped school altogether because she didn’t have the strength to go to school anymore. She needed food. Their cattle started dying because there was not pasture for them as well. Food became a luxury. Life was intolerable.

Her younger brother died. There was hardly any food to feed him. After his burial, she started seeing people come to their homestead. They talked at length with her father. She wasn’t allowed to listen to adult conversation and so she would be chased away to go and play. She didn’t have any strength to play and so she watched from a distance as the adults talked. She never knew her fate was being sealed.

A week later, a man, a very old man came to their homestead. Her mother was crying. Her father was excited. She was told she had to go. Where? She wondered. She loved home. Had she done something wrong? She wanted to run, but where to? Like a sheep being led to slaughter, the man took hold of her hand and led her away from home. Her mother was crying. Her father was caressing his moustache. All she took were the clothes she had on. Not her books, not her clothes, not even memories of home.

She later learnt that her father had sold her. For only 15,000 thousand shillings. That was her worth. Her innocence lost, her dignity taken away, her childhood snatched from before her very eyes, she was the sacrifice that was to feed her family. In her young mind she probably wondered for how long 15,000 thousand shillings would feed her family back home.

She never knew what life would be beyond the sunshine that was in her childhood. She never grew into adulthood. She never saw the light of day beyond 11 years. She died. Labour complications with her second child.
No one knew her name. She became a statistics in the many deaths of children who are sold off as famine brides. She became a statistic in the many children who are sold off for marriage as child brides. She was just a statistic with a figure to it. Not a name. Not a memory from her family or her husband.

Yet her memory lingers. For at last she was remembered. As the day of the African child is commemorated tomorrow, children across Africa want an end to child marriage. The theme for the day being: Accelerating our collective efforts to end child marriage in Africa. Young girls may be sold off for whatever reason, and so together, let us stand up with them and end this vice so that these girls can live beyond their childhood to womanhood.

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