By Sharon Kaponda*
When Catherine (not real name), got selected to continue with her education at a conventional community day secondary school in Mangochi, her parents told her they could not afford the school fees. At 15, Catherine’s parents were already suggesting to her that she should get married, just like the many girls in her village in the eastern part of the district. She refused; Catherine said she wanted to go to school and become a nurse.
Three years down the line, Catherine is in school, thanks to a good Samaritan who sponsored her. There are many ‘Catherines’ out there who have been forced into early or child marriages because their parents or guardians were not forthcoming to support their education. Unfortunately, some of these guardians and parents think marrying their daughters off to suitors is a solution to deep-seated poverty.
The story of another girl from the same district disputes this fact. Patuma (not real name) was married off to a young man who lives in South Africa. She was forced to leave school while in form one, to get married to this perceived well-to-do man. The young man brought refrigerators, television sets, cellphones and clothes which made him look like he was doing well in the Rainbow Nation. The young suitor lured Patuma’s parents with all these materials to coerce their daughter to marry him.
The prospect of living in South Africa was every girl’s dream in her village. A year into the marriage revealed the true colour of the man Patuma had thought was a gentleman. He started abusing her in every form — from battering to denying her access to get a job.
“He started beating me every time I brought up the issue of employment. In South Africa many women go to work. I wanted to get a job to supplement his salary which was not great. He started locking me up and threatened to beat me further if I kept bringing up the issue,” Patuma said.
When Patuma called her parents back in Malawi to inform them about the situation, they were of little help. They told her every family has its own challenges. Patuma said she made a decision to…
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