Before her breasts could even be properly cupped in her brasseries she was married off – at the age of 13. The development cut short her rosy dreams as a young and energetic girl with great ambitions to hit it big in life.
Dreams of standing up tall one day and make important decisions for the country despite her sex. Dreams to make a difference in a world of male chauvinism. Dreams to have children by choice not chance or force.
But; these all, were thwarted.
“I was only in Standard Six, and when I was told that I was going to get married I refused. But there was nothing I could do,” explains Enala Ngulu, now 39.
According to her, hunger had stroke their household and there was need for money to get supplies or the family was going to starve to death.
“I was the only one among my siblings who had just attained puberty at the time. My parents told me one evening that I was going to get married the following week. I refused but there was nothing I could do. They had already made the decision, and it was final,” she explains.
Ngulu has been in marriage for 26 years now, and has six children. With her tale and experience of the pangs of early marriage, Ngulu has vowed to save her girls and many other girls in the country from the hand of the cancer.
“I won’t let any of that happen to my children, and to the many other girls in our country,” she says matter-of-factly.
In trying to mend her yester academic wounds, Ngulu got back to school at age 29 and was one of the delegates to a Commonwealth Summit on ending early child and forced marriages in Malta recently.
“My trip was adventurous as I learnt a lot regarding what other countries, including the host Malta, are doing to end the malpractice most of which is not happening in Malawi.”
She says government’s commitment towards curbing the malpractice is abysmal.
“I was ashamed when I learnt that from Malawi there was nothing we could show as an activity to make sure that we protect our girls from the malpractice. Aside the passing of the Marriage bill, government seems to be slumbering as it has left all the work at the hands of non-governmental organizations,” she says.
Susan Kalawo, a documenter working with Action Aid on the Ufulu wa Mayi Project in Mwabulabo Village of Karonga, corroborates Ngulu’s sentiments, arguing government should champion the fight if “ending early marriages should ever come to fruition.”
Said Kalawo: “We continue to register alarming data regarding child marriages in Karonga. It would be better that government enforce the marriage bill that was just passed so that those who perpetrate it are brought to book.”
According to the Karonga District Education Manager’s (DEM) office, over 300 dropped out of school in the district during the 2014 – 2015 academic with the chief reason being early child marriages.
Karonga, one of the fastest growing districts in the country, has an age-old traditional practice, kupimbira, believed to be behind the malpractice.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :