Marrying off daughters in exchange for livestock to feed a family, settle a debt, or bring peace to conflicting families or tribes is common practice within many rural cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to poverty, a lack of education and resources, families will hand over their daughters’ fates to men three to four times the girls’ age. These early marriages can often prove to be detrimental to the girls, who may be abused, suffer serious risks of early pregnancy and childbirth, and whose vulnerability is magnified when they are prematurely pulled out of school.
Last year, 14-year-old Kalay from Tanzania found herself on the brink of losing her education and gaining a husband. What ensued would be a fight to choose her own path towards a future of change for all girls in her community.
One of six children, Kalay’s mother fully supported her desire to remain in school and continue on to secondary school (the equivalent of middle and high school). In Tanzania, successful entry into a secondary school is determined by eligibility exams. While she waited anxiously for her exam results, Kalay’s father proved less faithful in his daughter’s determination to succeed in her academic pursuits. The family’s inability to afford the cost of tuition, uniform and other necessities for Kalay’s schooling would also count against her. Even after passing her exams, Kalay’s father began to prepare his daughter for circumcision, a symbolic and traumatic ritual many girls go through as part of the process for impending marriage.
While her father’s power was great, Kalay’s resolve for an education and a brighter future proved to be greater. With the help of her teacher and a scholarship from Asante Africa Foundation, Kalay is now attending secondary school.
She believes education is the only way to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher herself, and the key for helping others change not just their own futures but the futures of their communities.