Zainabu Mshetwa (16) from rural Kahama in Shinyanga, today makes school uniforms from a sewing machine that she received when she completed a three-month tailoring course in Musoma.
Her present situation, however, probably would have been any other, we don’t know, but she might as well have remained a married teenager today. Child marriage isn’t uncommon in these parts of the country, and like many other young girls of school age like her it didn’t happen by her will, but rather her father decided for her.
This and numerous other suppressive traditions continuously deny girls the possibilities of becoming who they want to in future, and in essence withholding their full rights.
Additionally, they suffocate opportunities to access these rights, which are the cornerstone of the Access to Justice Program that LSF implements countrywide.
At 14, her young life took an unfortunate turn, one day while she was away at a wedding, two young men arrived at her family home, one had accompanied his friend, whose the aim of his visit was none other than to make known his desire to marry her.
Her father, who was home at the time informed them that, she was away and that they would be welcome to return when she is back.
“When I returned home from the wedding, my mother came to me and informed me that, a marriage proposal for me had been put forward, but I simply kept quiet. My mother protested this decision telling my father that, I was too young to be married, but he wasn’t having any of it;
“I however came to make my position known that, I didn’t want to get married. I remember my mother and I travelled to Maswa, and behind our backs, my father accepted five heads of cattle as dowry, and went so far as to move the animals away from home. When we returned, he ordered me to move to my suitor, but when I refused, he forced me out, and I had to go,” recalls Zainabu.
She lived with the man for four months that she only describes as absolute hell – intercourse against her and beatings when she didn’t submit became regular features of her life. Fearing for her life, she returned home, but her husband withheld her belongings in an attempt to maintain a degree of control over her.