Zimbabwe: Married at 17 due to poverty

Date: October 10, 2019
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I stayed with my aunt and her husband whilst still going to primary school. I was exposed to some of the most abuses during that time. My parents were both staying in the rural areas and they could not afford to send me to school. My aunt appeared as a saviour when she asked my parents if she could take me to the city and give me a chance to attend school. My parents saw it as a burden off their shoulders and my aunt took me to her place.  

When we got to her place she did not waste time before she set some ground rules for me which she strongly said were not to be broken. I was only ten by then but she expected me to do her children’s laundry, clean the five roomed house and taught me how to prepare some meals. I was the last person to go to bed every day after cleaning the dishes and putting everything in place for the next morning. I was being treated like a house maid not her niece. She would even pinch me and say some unprintable words whenever I broke any of the house rules she had earlier spelt to me.  

My aunt and her husband expected me to behave and act as if everything was normal. I persevered and finally wrote my grade 7 final examinations. I went to my parents place during the festive period and despite being poor they were not pleased when I told them what I was going through. My father told her sister, my aunt, that I was no longer going back to the city with her when she came to fetch me before schools were opened in January the following year. My aunt was angry with that development as she had relied on me as her house maid. My parents told her about all the ill-treatments she did to me but she denied everything. She accused me of being rude and arrogant both at home and at school.  

My aunt lied that I had lost my birth certificate and she could assist in getting another one if only I was allowed to go back to the city with her. My parents told her that whatever claims she was saying were all false and I was not going with her. I was overjoyed for I did not want to go with my aunt. I finally enrolled at a nearby college which had overgrown people as its students. Some were even mothers and fathers.  

I fell in love with one young man from my neighbourhood who regularly brought me something to eat during lunch breaks at school. He would always provide whatever my parents could not afford to give me. At 17 I was having unprotected sex with him and I  fell pregnant. He agreed to marry me and assured my parents that he would pay for my school needs and I had to continue with education once I gave birth. He then changed saying I could no longer go back to school but had to do a small business to occupy myself. I regret the lies he fed with for I am now a mother of three without a sound educational background.