Married at 14
"When a girl child is married and the bride price has been paid, her own family no longer has any authority over her."
"I plucked up the courage to talk about my story publicly
in front of a huge crowd of people. I heard [men]
shouting, "You're wasting our time, better sit down!"
...but I kept speaking."
My name is Joyce. I was born in 1997. In 2011, at the age of 14, I was married to a man twice my age. I felt blessed at first, thinking that marriage life would free me from hunger and miserable life. Little did I know that the hardships of a child born to peasant farmers paled in comparison to those of a child bride. The village I grew up in was a pastoral hamlet near Shinyanga Town in northern Tanzania. Like my family, most people in my village lived on what their small plots of land would yield. It was hardly ever enough. Many times at night we went to bed without food. New clothes were too expensive to afford, and so was medical care. I guess, I could count myself lucky that I was able to finish primary school and even qualified to join secondary education. But by then my mother had left us, not being able to endure the harsh life as the wife of a peasant farmer any longer. I was eight, when my mother left, and my father had to raise my siblings and me by himself. My father was a poor man. Although this meant that I could not continue with my education, I was not opposed. On the contrary, I thought I would be living a good life finally, in a proper house.
When a girl child is married and the bride price has been paid, her own family no longer has any authority over her. All decisions concerning her fate fall in the hands of her husband’s family. So when my husband started beating and torturing me, my father might have been aware of what was happening, but there was nothing he could do about it. My marriage life was horrible. The beatings caused many injuries, and surely, people knew what was going on. But in fear of community norms and customs nobody ever reported my husband, and neither did I. After all, I had nowhere to go. I had to be patient, and keep silent.
Five months after I had had a baby boy, my husband left home without saying where he was going. He never came back. It was only then that I had the courage to return to my father and tell him what had been happening to me. I was 16 and had been living through two years of trauma. But I did not dare go and report my husband to the authorities. I was dead scared they might ask me where he went. Until today I do not know where my husband is. In March 2014, the Agape AIDS Control Programme came to our village to introduce us to the Stop Child Marriages Project. They had a van that was a mobile cinema. The moment I saw the video about the harmful effects of child marriages, I knew my life was about to take a new turn. I decided to introduce myself as a victim of child marriage. Initially, I found the thought of having to face the Agape AIDS Control Programme officers difficult. But as time went on I gained confidence and stepped towards their tent.
I could not believe my ears when I heard myself speaking. I do not know where I plucked up the courage to talk about my story publicly, in front of a huge crowd of people. But the moment I had started I was unstoppable. I heard community members, especially men, shouting: “You’re wasting our time. Better you sit down!” But I kept speaking until I had said what I needed to say. The Agape AIDS Control Programme officers committed to help me pursue an education. I would like to thank Agape AIDS Control Programme for taking me to school and giving me this new opportunity in my life. Apart from school, I have also learnt a lot of things, especially life skills. I dream of a bright future - for my son, and for myself. I wish to become a tailor when I have completed my studies. I promise that I will study hard so as to achieve my dreams.
"In fear of community norms and customs, nobody ever reported my husband [for the beatings] and neither did I. After all, I had nowhere to go."
"The moment I saw [AACP's] video about the harmful effects of child marriage, I knew my life was about to take a new turn."