With a combined population of over half a million people originating from all across the East African region and the Congo, Daadab refugee camps enjoy a cosmopolitan feel. It is the melting point of cultures, good and bad from various communities and tribes. The ills of culture are quite evident in the camps with numerous Gender Based Violence cases going unreported. In all instances save for close to none, the victims being women and children.
Amina Abdullahi, 17 exclusively shares to The Refugee Magazine in a bid to highlight the grim reality of being forced to live as a child bride.
I got married when I was only 14 years old. My clan had a conflict with another family so my dad gave me away for marriage in order to settle the conflict. She was in class 6 at the time. I loved school, it was the only safe place to be where one could learn new things and make good friends. It also helped us forget about our problems. We went to school to nurture our dreams and goals in life.
But my dream did not see the light of day. I was woken up before it came true. A marriage was arranged for me. My consent of course wasn’t necessary. It was not a forced marriage but I was a young girl naïve about marriage. After the ceremony my husband became hostile and harsh. He beat and forced himself on me as I was all covered up with ignorance of what a wife’s intimate roles to her husband involved.
“It is the tradition of our community that every woman should be beaten by her husband if she fails to serve him, it is the right of the husband to get what he demands from the wife” admits 70 years old Mumina Sheikh, Hagadera resident.
From the continuous beatings and his forcefulness, I hurt and stayed in bed for two weeks due to bleeding. No one could help me as everyone remained silent. They said it was a tradition that every virgin lady should bleed and must be attested to by the blood in the bedding. To add salt to the wound, he would beat me day and night, my hands whole body was bruised from his knocks. It was evident to everyone I was getting hurt, I looked weak and vulnerable but no one came to my aid. I even lost my pregnancy.
With so much pain in her voice, she streams of tears flowing down her cheeks and a weakened voice she says, “I have stayed unhappy in the marriage. I believe the only reason my husband’s family married their son to me was because they needed a servant that was all I was to them. I have no worthy education like other girls. This marriage has severely affected my health.
As her frustrations continued she suffered a near acute depression that she had to be admitted for a mental health assessment at IRC hospital, where she is currently undergoing medication.
I ask her if she sought any assistance from the leaders and she says, “I did seek help from local religious authorities but they ignored me saying I should accept the marriage”. Amina admits that many girls live in constant fear of their husbands. “I am speaking for the first time to vent out my pain after seeing other girls victims of forced marriages spoke to The Refugee Magazine. This is the only platform we have to share our stories, pains and dreams with the listening world”, added Amina Abdullah.
“We cannot get education at the cost of victimization. If you escape from your marriage, forced or early, we become victims of verbal abuse by the whole community” explains a form three student at Hagadera secondary school”. Her sentiments are supported by Siyad Abdi, Hagadera resident who admits that these girls have no idea of what really awaits them in these arranged marriages, physical abuse or marital rape.
She hopes that her story would be used by young girls to defy practices that hinder their growth and uproot them off the fertile soil of education.