These are the words of Joaninha* words, a 15-years-old girl who was forced by the circumstances of life to marry before the age. Recently, however, she was rescued by World Vision's Child Protection team. Born in Sofala, Mozambique, Joaninha lives in a small community in Buzi district along with her two brothers, sister-in-law and niece, in a small tent offered by humanitarian agencies to Cyclone Idai survivors.
The suffering begins for Joaninha in 2018 when her father died. Because he had previously separated from his wife, Joaninha's mother, she came under her stepmother's care.
“My stepmother mistreated me a lot. She treated me as a housemaid,” says Joaninha with a frown, adding that a certain day her stepmother went overnight far from home leaving her to take care of other children, alone.
"The children cried a lot all night and when she arrived, she beat me and then expelled me from home telling me to look for another place to live," she says. "I got married because my situation was though... not for love."
Pastor João, the Key piece to the Rescue
João Maquite is a faith leader in her community and he attended a Child Protection training using the Celebrating Family model promoted by World Vision in partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in order to put an end early marriages as well as others social evils that affect children, especially the survivors from Cyclone Idai.
A week after Pastor Maquite attended the training, he learned that a young girl who was attending his church was about to be paid the dowry and that she was already living with relatives of her future 26-years-old husband.
"I did not accept and I battled fiercely to rid her of this marriage," says the evangelical, adding that he immediately reported the situation to World Vision for the appropriate action. "But, there was a fray because the stepmother had already negotiated the bride price."
"I positioned myself as someone who was seeking for justice by interrupting the marriage... it caused her a big heartbreak and she later arose against me saying that I was meddling in matters that did not concern me," he recalls.
Moreover, the pastor said that the other battle he waged, with support from the government of Mozambique, was to take Joaninha from stepmother's care because she is a producer of alcoholic beverages which Joaninha was tasked with selling. "There were always men there to consume these drinks and that exposed her to risks," adds João.
"It is a great victory. After all these battles, we were able to prevent the marriage and return her to a family and school environment," said João with an air of relief, expressing concern for the future of that family because no one has formal employment or a fixed income.
In the coming school year, Joaninha will start sixth grade. She dreams of becoming an English teacher. "Now I'm very happy because I'm able to continue my school," said Joaninha smiling.
Pastor João recognized that the training was crucial to his heroic stance in this case. "If I had not had the training, it would have been difficult to face the situation because it was kind of an attack. I had the courage because it was not long after being prepared by World Vision."
Alongside this achievement, World Vision, in partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, allowed more than 7,000 children to play in the Child Friendly Spaces where they were monitored and kept safe. This partnership was also able to reach nearly 10,000 people directly.
Although the results are encouraging, many children living in extreme poverty, especially in this period of severe drought, are in urgent need.