My name is Herieth. I am 18 years old. I was born in 1997 in Shinyanga Region. My educational level is standard six; I failed to continue with my studies because I became pregnant and hence, forced into marriage at the age of 14 years. The only bread winner was my mother who actually had no proper means of earning a living, so mostly we had a single meal the whole day long. For that case I lacked mostly of the basic needs of life like good shelter, shoes, medical care and the like.
I was raised by my mother who was a domestic worker (house help) at one of the neighboring families and she was paid very little, and over worked. I had one sister only. My father was a second husband to my mother. My mother told me that my father ran away after her first husband forced her to reconcile their marriage, and so he frightened (threatened) my father by telling him he was a wrong doer. My father escaped in fear of being arrested. After that, I found myself hanging out with bad friends who persuaded me to engage in bad risky behavior (sexual relationships). I was not ready but one older man convinced me to have sex with him and sometimes threatened me. Before he had succeeded, he used to give me small gift like pens, exercise books, school shoes and others, so he threatened me by reminding me of the cost he had incurred. I remember the first day he forced me to have sex, by pulling me towards the bushes. I sustained bruises, wounds and virginity breakage. I ended up pregnant. I knew that I was pregnant after having stopped getting my menstrual period. I asked my friends and they told me that I was pregnant. I remember it was the fourth month of not getting menstruation cycle, I decided to tell him but he rejected and told me to undergo abortion. I rejected this, and felt much pain. What made me very sad was thinking how I could get the means of nursing my pregnancy, getting my basic needs, what could actually happen during delivery and taking care of my expected baby.
After six months my mother found out that I was pregnant after she had observed some changes in my body shape, and drowsiness. My mother became furious and angry, scolded me and she decided to report to Village Executive Officer (VEO) and to school administration that I was pregnant. I was asked to tell who was the one who was responsible for the pregnancy, but I did not mention him because the man restricted me from mentioning him. After seven months of pregnancy, I was chased away from school and my fellow pupils started laughing at me every time I came across with them and the community around me started discriminating me. I felt shy and shame, in short I was very unhappy. They laughed at me because the story spread to every corner of my locality; my peers teased, bullied me and kept on laughing at me. Despite being angry, my mother was with me during delivery. I was very frightened of whether I would survive during delivery. I did not get any medicine from clinical officer during delivery, I had to sustain pain. After the baby was delivered, that man decided to pay a dowry and married me. I went and stayed with my husband for a year. I found life good though I always felt tired because I used to spend the whole day long doing house chores and at the same time attending farming activities. Apart from cooking, and cleaning, I was to look after other children at home. In fact, I felt miserable as days passed by. After conceiving again my husband started discriminating me and even beating me and sometimes was not giving me food. Sometimes I was given a single meal, rarely two meals, and milk for the baby was insufficient.
I decided to be patient for some time, but I could not continue living with him and decided to go back home. When I reached home my mother asked me to go back to my husband and be patient until I deliver my second born. I went back to my husband. After the delivery of my second born, my husband provided care for the baby but when my second born reached the age of 18 months, my husband started beating me and chased me away like a dog by kicking me off like a football, pushing, slapping, and headbutting me. He used to take a stick and beat me with it.
I decided to take my babies to their grandmother (my husband’s mother) and run away from the village where I was staying with my husband. She was not kind to me as she supported her son, that he was doing the right thing. Because his mother supported him, his anger with me increased so I decided to go to Shinyanga Municipal to look for a job. I left my babies with their grandmother so she took care of them. I was employed as a domestic worker for a year in one house at Ngokolo Street, being paid 20,000Tsh ($10) per month for my work. Normally washing clothes, mopping, cooking, dressing bedrooms, fetching firewood, fetching water, looking after children. Despite being paid little, my employer treated me ok though some of them tempted me into a sexual relationship.
One day I decided to go back to the village to attend funeral ceremony of my aunt and found AACP showing video cinema with a theme of impact of child marriages. After the video session Agape AIDS Control Programme Director Mr. John Myola announced that if there is a girl below 18 years old who is a victim of child marriage, to come forward and register her name. Then I decided to show up myself and started telling him my life story and later on he committed to support me with going back to school. I thank God I am doing good and I am aspiring and hoping to have good standard of life in the coming time. My dream is to become a prosperous and reputable entrepreneur in tailoring ventures.
I would like to advise my fellow girl children not to engage with bad friends who can convince them to engage in love affairs and later on fail to achieve their dreams. Also, I would like to thank Agape AIDS Control Programme for helping girl children who are victims of Child Marriages and Early Pregnancies in Kishapu and Shinyanga Rural, may God bless them. I will do my very best to educate my children (daughter and son) on the ill effects of child marriages versus the positive impacts of waiting until older ages or adulthood.
Married at 14
"I remember the first day he forced me to have sex by pulling me towards the bushes. I sustained bruises, wounds and virginity breakage. I ended up pregnant."
"My husband [kicked] me like a football, pushing, slapping and headbutting me. He used a stick and beat me with it."
"One day I found AACP showing video cinema with a theme of [the] impact of child marriages."
"After conceiving again, my husband started discriminating me and even beating me and sometimes not giving me food."