Although humanitarian agencies argue that early marriage is a poisonous practice that puts many innocent girls at so many risks, its proponents view it as a rich tradition and heritage they cannot abandon.
Aisha Ahmed shares her story of forceful withdrawal from school and being dropped into a pit called early marriage with.
A dowry of 1500 dollars for my hand in marriage was agreed upon between my parents and the man. As is the norm, my consent was not sought. Two days after the agreement I was called in to our sleeping room. I went in and my father and mother were already seated. An awkward calm filled the whole room for a moment before my father signaled mum to break the news to me but she could hardly say a word.
Aisha Ahmed was born in dagahley camp. She comes third in her family. She says she grew up and played happily like any other child in the camp. Her parents enrolled her into an Islamic school at the age of four. She later joined nursery school when she turned six. At that tender age she always envisioned herself a lawyer. Legal robes and gowns, wigs and large volumes of case files. She had the dream to have a place at the bar with the legal authority and power to empower other many women around the world.
Everything seemed right and falling into place as she always outperformed her classmates. Things were beautiful for Aisha until they started getting uglier each day when she got to class 7. Just a year into her final year exams she was married off!
When my mother could not break the news to me, father took it upon himself to. It broke my heart. It went deep into my soul. Then suddenly mother found her voice, “we have given your hand in marriage to a wealthy man that really deserves you”, Mama sahra told me. “You are so lucky to be the wife of such a high society man” added my dad.
I broke down in tears and begged my parents not to kill my dreams but nothing I said would make them change their minds. “We are your parents and we know what is good for you, we have chosen for you this man and you have to accept it. You are not different from your sisters who never disobeyed our decisions!” added my dad. I had no choice at this moment. Tears did not stop flowing from my eyes.
The wedding day came, my family, friends and other relatives had merry but for me it was one of the longest day I ever had. The weeding night would get even worse. My body had not yet matured for intimacy. I pained and bled profusely. It was the highest height of affliction on me. I cried all night.
Things kept getting harder as days went by. I struggled with stress during my first pregnancy. I did not enjoy much of my husband’s support. He would only come home in the evenings, thrice a week and spent the other four nights with his first wife.
When it was time to deliver of her first child. All odds were against her. The labour took quite a long time that she had to undergo a caesarean section (C-Section). After the operation, her body was so feeble she stayed in bed for three months. Her husband did not support her or provide any care for her. When she complained she was divorced.
Now as a single mother I have to do casual work in the villages for pittance as the baby also needs milk. I can hardly sleep at night because he cries so much. My parents are disappointed with their actions but it is a little too late now. My divorced husband has bequeathed any responsibilities and wants nothing to do with me. I fend for myself.
I would love to go back to school and attain my goal of being a lawyer someday. I am aware of the fact that it will be difficult but I still want to study. If I would turn back the hands of time, I would go against my parents marrying me off that young.
“With notoriety young girls in Dadaab camps are used as property in exchange for cash and camels”, says Halima, Community worker in IRC. “This happens every single day to many girls in the camps my dad forced me to marry at just fourteen”, says ubax Ali, early marriage survivor.
For many refugee girls in Dadaab camps the unkindness of their refugee status added to backward cultural beliefs and religious stiffness have all made them vulnerable. While the legal age of marriage in Kenya is eighteen, Sheikh Ismail emphasizes the provisions of the Holy Quran to The Refugee Magazine that, “Islamic law allows a girl to be married as long as she is over twelve years old”.
Child marriage is harmful. The young girls’ health risks increase as they engage in sexual activity while their bodies are stilldeveloping. According to medical research and findings around the world on sex and health, girls under fifteen years of age are at a highest risk of death during child birth as their bodies are not yet ready for the pain and process.