Marrying at 15: “I was convinced I was doing the right thing”

Photo credit: Maryam Mohsin | Girls Not Brides

Usually when you hear about child marriage, you hear stories of young girls being pressured by their families to marry early for a bride price, or they marry to escape poverty, or because parents say school is too expensive.

I was only 15 when I got married. My parents didn’t approve and tried to convince me to stay in school. I went against their wishes, convinced I was doing the right thing.

I was only 15 when I got married. My parents didn’t approve and tried to convince me to stay in school. I went against their wishes, convinced I was doing the right thing. I was young, determined, and had met a 27 year old man with a good job who seemed to hold the key to a better life. A life where I would feel wanted, and be well looked after, and escape the daily financial struggles at home.

My mother, father, and older brothers all tried to stop me so I ran away from home and dropped out of school, convinced that I would be happy with a man I barely knew.

We were married. That’s when it started. The verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Soon after I fell pregnant. I was trapped—my husband threatened to kill me if I ever tried to go home.

We were married. That’s when it started. The verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Soon after I fell pregnant. I was trapped—my husband threatened to kill me if I ever tried to go home.

It was through a friend at the hospital that I found out about Continuity Zambia Organization, an organisation that provides counselling and support to girls in difficult situations. It is incredibly hard to approach an organisation and strangers for help. I didn’t know whether I could trust them to help make the situation better for me, or whether they would unintentionally make it worse.

They mediated my divorce from my husband and helped me and my baby move back home with my family. They helped me find my confidence again and made me realise that I wasn’t to blame for my situation and that there was a way out. I desperately wanted to go back to school and both they and my family helped make this possible.

My son was born and was diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia, which means he is susceptible to infections, suffers from constant tiredness, and will at times be in severe pain.

Going back into education when you have a baby is incredibly tough.

Going back into education when you have a baby is incredibly tough. My mother would bring my son to me during lunchtime or class breaks so I could breastfeed him when he was hungry and crying. I had fallen behind at school, which meant I was no longer studying with my friends. Often I would see them in the classes above me, or walking around my village, and they wouldn’t know what to say when they saw me with my baby.

I love my son dearly. Despite everything, he is the funniest, most inquisitive 4 year old I have ever met. He instantly brightens up my day when I’m feeling low or when I’m worrying about money and how I’m going look after him and pay my school fees. He inspires me to work hard for the both of us.

If I had to give my 15 year old self one piece of advice it would be that marriage is not a solution to problems and doesn’t guarantee a happier life.

If I had to give my 15 year old self one piece of advice it would be that marriage is not a solution to problems and doesn’t guarantee a happier life. You need to first try to sort out your own problems and find happiness in yourself.

I am now 19 and looking ahead to the future. Eventually I would like to go into higher education and carrying on studying sciences and become a nurse so I can help other children like my son.

*Precious is a 19 year old mother, living and working in Zambia, Lusaka. She is currently working to save money to fund her further education so she can become a nurse.

*The author’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

The story was first published on the BMJ.