Removing barriers for a better life
This quarter we've chosen to focus on a Case Study - please be advised that some informaiton could be upsetting.
Child Marriage: forcing young girls away from education and shattering dreams
Child marriages are a common practice in rural Zimbabwe. It is considered a socio-cultural norm with a number of communities continuing the harmful practice. Trinity Project works with the local community to prevent child marriages; firstly by educating against the cultural norm and secondly by providing children with access to identity documents, which is important as without such documents individuals cannot participate as full citizens.
Child marriage survivor: Charlette Moyo (name changed to protect identity)
Charlotte was born in South Africa, due to lack of proper documentation her mother could not get a decent job. She moved from one house to another as a domestic worker however this did not provide a stable income for her and her daughter. Charlotte’s mother decided to send her back to Zimbabwe, to be cared for by her grandmother with the hope that this would provide her with greater stability and quality of life. However Charlotte’s grandmother struggled to look after her and was unable to financially support her.
For Charlotte, poverty and an absence of identify documents posed two significant challenges early on in her life. Due to the financial burden of having to care for Charlotte, her grandmother sent her to stay with a relative in another village, she was 13 years old. Charlotte found herself in a difficult situation, whilst staying with her Aunt she was raped by a member of the community. The assault occurred at night when she was disturbed whilst asleep in her room. He was 27 and Charlotte was 14 at the time of her sexual assault.
It was then decided that she will would be married to the same man. Her family encouraged the marriage as in exchange they received a dowry. Charlotte was forced to quit school before it was possible for her to obtain any qualifications. The marriage was emotionally and physically abusive, the previous assault and the marriage had long term effects on her mental and physical wellbeing, causing a great deal of trauma.
In Zimbabwe children without official legal identity, become easy targets for abuse. Perpetrators can easily take advantage of children without documentation as it is very challenging for them to prove that they are indeed under aged.Charlotte was in an incredibly vulnerable situation with much of the cause being her lack of legal documentation.
Luckily, a Child Protection Committee Member from her village who works with Trinity Project heard of her situation. She met with Charlotte and told her she was a legal officer at the Trinity Project. She discussed her rights and potential options with Charlotte. However, the lack of birth certificate meant that there was no legal valid proof of age to defend her case. This caused a delay in her case and she sadly became pregnant at the age of 15. This worked against her case as it was used by her family to argue that she was not underage and that the marriage was in fact legal.
Trinity Project helped Charlotte gain justice against her abuser;
1) Getting a birth certificate to help prove her age.
2) Taking the case to court for her and providing legal advice.
She is no longer married, Charlotte won her case and her abuser was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison. At this point in time Charlotte was guided to go to counselling at the Contact Counselling Centre, to help deal with the trauma.
Happily Charlotte is back at school preparing to complete her Ordinary Levels.
Trinity project continues to work with communities to combat child marriage. The project aims to raise awareness of the issues relating to child marriage and to combat its prevalence within local communities. The Trinity project works with child protection officers to continue to save young girls from having to go through similar situations.