Nineteen year old Musri from Indonesia is a wife, a full-time employee and an outspoken advocate against child marriage.
Four years ago when she was 15, her parents told her to marry one of her father’s friends. She had just graduated from junior high school and wanted to continue her studies, however she did not have the courage to say no to the man her father had chosen. In addition, local tradition in her village dictates that if a girl is proposed to by someone, her family has to agree otherwise, the girl will find it very difficult to get married in the future.
“Also I felt guilty turning down my father’s request,” explains Musri who was an active member of the children’s group in her village.
Even though she made it clear that she did not love the man her father had chosen and did not want to marry him, Musri eventually agreed to the proposal and married the 25-year old man who did not have steady job or a sufficient income. She did not believe that love would eventually come after years of living together. The marriage took place under religious law but was not officially registered by the state.
After the marriage party, Musri did not want to talk to her husband, who moved into her parents’ house. She refused to serve him or have sex with him. This went on for around 5 months until Musri eventually had the courage to speak to her parents to ask them if she could go back to school.
"I knew it would be hard for me to convince my parents to send me to school again. Also my neighbours would say bad things about me and my family."
Her parents eventually agreed to let Musri return to school and she was allowed to continue her studies. Musri chose to attend a vocational training school which she thought would make it easier to find a job after graduation. Musri chose to study the automotive industry and she was warmly welcomed by the school’s headmaster, Tri Budiyono.
“I support Musri’s decision to go back to school. It’s her right to be at school at her age even though she is married. I know one of the school’s enrolment requirements for prospective students is not to be married yet. But I fought for her,” says Mr Budiyono.
Musri succeeded in completing her studies at the vocational school. She tried to get a scholarship from the government to go to university but she was turned down. Now she is focusing on her administration job that she started three months ago. Her husband has since moved out from her parents’ house.
“I will never give up. I will work and save money to go to university,”
...says Musri who recently spoke at the Indonesian Constitutional Court as an advocate against child marriage and asked the court to raise the age limit for marriage from 16 to 18 years old.
In the time it has taken to read this article 32 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds