A CHILD EMBARKS ON ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN AGAINST CHILD MARRIAGES
It’s a hot September afternoon as the crowd gathers under a huge African Mukuyu tree to witness a wedding between 30 year old Mutaka Chintuka and 16 year old Mandalena Kapenya a grade nine pupil at Chinemu Primary school.
However, this is not a real wedding but one displayed in role play to portray the vice of early marriages in Lufwanyama district, situated 456 kilometres from Zambia’s capital Lusaka.
Mandalena is clad in a white wedding dress, her young youthful face well obscured beneath the veil as she and her “husband to be” walk straight into the centre of the crowd to take their vows. The day is a special one because it is not often that the crowd witnesses a western style wedding, despite the area having so many traditional child marriage ceremonies.
The Irony of all this however, is that in real life, Mandalena has been a victim of the pressure of early child marriage herself. She dropped out of school at fourteen years when she was in grade seven, after being impregnated by a man older than her.
Mandalena was in the process of officially marrying the father to her baby when her baby died after a short illness. The demise of the baby unfortunately, appeared to be a blessing in disguise for her because marriage talks were immediately halted.
Shortly after this the Save the Children Investment in children project through it’s child protection committee, intervened in the girl’s situation and begun to counsel her and the parents at the same time. She was counselled on the loss of the baby whilst her parents were counselled on the need to have her re-enrolled in school.
The committee caregivers stressed that every child has a right to education regardless of their gender. Mandalena then re-enrolled for school at Chinemu primary school and is currently writing her grade 9 final examinations.
She has now begun to share her story as part of community sensitisation in order to discourage other young girls from falling into a similar trap. She also sensitizes and speaks on behalf of her peers by representing them in the Community Child Protection committee as a member.
“Many parents do not realise that educating a girl child is very important. It does not occur to them that once they educate a girl child, she will come back and take care of them in future. The parents in this community must be sensitised in order for them to realise that educating a child is a good investment into the child’s future” says Mandalena.
Thanks to the Investment in Children Child protection Committee Mandalena is back on the right track and in control of her life.