According to the national statistical body, almost 1 in 4 Kenyan girls, and 2 out of 5 girls in Tanzania are married before their 18th birthday. In pastoralist communities, forced early marriages are a way for the girls’ brothers to generate income to be used as dowry to secure their own wives. Research shows that in the absence of school enrollment, early marriages become the go-to option for young girls in rural communities of East Africa.
Joyce Lekishon Masiaya is one of over 700 girls that have been enrolled in Asante Africa Foundation’s Girls Advancement Program — Wezesha Vijana (GAP) in the past year. Students enrolled in the Girls Advancement Program receive an extensive education on children’s rights. The importance of this kind of education is evident in the decisions made by the girls who have attended Wezesha Vijana.
Joyce’s story is a potent demonstration of this. Joyce is 13 years old and hopes to serve her community as a medical doctor in the future. About a year ago, her dreams of creating positive impact were sidetracked when her father announced he was marrying her off. Her husband-to-be was a 48 year old man, who was more than 3 times older than her, and her bride price was set at 120 litres of locally-brewed alcohol and 20 litres of cooking oil. When she realized that her rights were being violated by being forced into marriage at such a tender age, she reported her father to the headmaster of her school who was able to convince him to not marry his daughter off.
Her father did not keep his word, but Joyce’s resilience would not be dimmed. After spending a night in her husband’s home, having been dragged there by her father, where she was sexually violated and physically abused, she managed to escape the next morning. Due to the training and skills Joyce had received previously from GAP , she knew where to get help and who to consult. She went to her head teacher, who reported her father to law enforcement authorities and after receiving a thorough medical check up and being declared fit for studies, she was enrolled in boarding school. Her father has since been arrested, and Joyce is currently in school, continuing the process of turning her dream of becoming a Doctor into reality.
Stories of girls like Joyce are far too common in rural Africa. What made Joyce different was the awareness she had of her rights and the confidence she had to do the right
Support our efforts to get a lot more girls enrolled in school, and in so doing, give them the gift of confidence and/to help eliminate child marriage as a plausible option. You too can contribute to silencing the alarming number of premature wedding bells. Click here to know more!