“If only I knew that sleeping with a boyfriend will make me fall pregnant, I would not have agreed to the relationship in the first place. The pain I endured when giving birth was unbearable and sadly I did not even understand what was happening to my body.”
14 year old Lisebo (Not her real name) dropped out of school just as she was beginning her high school studies because she was pregnant. In fear of what people will think of her and to escape from a lot of questions from her grandmother who had begun noticing some changes, she resorted to getting married.
One afternoon she just shows up at home and lies to her grandmother that she has been ordered to come home to cut her hair. Little did her grandmother know that she was running away with a boyfriend?
“I was not ready to answer her questions because personally I did not understand what was happening to my body. The rumour going around the village about me, was beginning to take a toll on me and her, so I decided it was best I leave,” reveals Lisebo who had no idea what getting married meant for her.
During her school days she used to leave home at around 4 a.m. in time for a 7 a.m morning study. This meant a three hour walk through maize fields, and if her friends did not make it to school that day, she would be walking alone. Getting married was a ‘blessing’ in way.
“Even after school I would come home very late, feeling very tired. I never had time to do any school work “she said.
“One day, my boyfriend who was then far older than me (18), tricked me into sleeping with him and before I knew it my body started behaving weirdly and I would fall asleep in class. I never understood those changes until the day I gave birth” she added
“Worse when I reached the home of the supposedly my in-laws , I was given orders on what to do and what not to do and none of it made sense because I did not know what I was supposed to do as a wife ”Lisebo revealed .
Lisebo‘s case is not isolated in Mpharane Area programme in Mohale’s Hoek, a district South of Lesotho. It is one of the many that go unreported.
The young mother is now back to school, thanks to the intervention by World Vision and government police arm of Child and Gender Protection unit.
After learning about the marriage, the two engaged in a conversation with her family and that of her boyfriend convincing them that the marriage was illegal because of her age.
Her ever smiling face, reveals how happy she is to be back in school. Her dream of becoming a doctor is now on track.
Many of these girls are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers.
Lesotho is no exception to these violations. One in five girls are married before they reach 18. (UNICEF 2017 report). The country has committed to ending child marriage but the marriage act which says the minimum age is 21 with an allowance of 16 and 18 for boys and girls with a written permission has not been amended as yet. This means unless the act is revised and strengthened to close the loose ends, ending child marriage may just be a claim.
In this region of sub-Saharan, proximately 39% of girls are married before the age of 18. All African countries are faced with the challenge of child marriage
According to this report, causes of child marriage include parents marrying off their daughter due to poverty or out of fear for their safety, also the tradition and the stigma of straying from tradition perpetuate child marriage in many communities.
Lisebo and many other who find themselves in similar situations are forced by the feeling that she had strayed from tradition.