Child Married Early Lesotho

Rescued from early marriage and now back to school

“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.